London denies that its migrant barge is a “floating prison”

Faced with the controversy of its use of a barge to house asylum seekers, the British government refuted this Friday that the Bibby Stockholm or a “floating prison”, ensuring that the asylum seekers who will stay there would retain a certain freedom of movement. As 20 minutes told you about it on Thursday, Bibby Stockholm is supposed to house around 500 men while their asylum applications are being considered. However, this method has been criticized and described as “cruel” or violating the “dignity” of refugees by organizations defending refugees or human rights.

In the name of the promises made at the time of Brexit and in the face of the numerous arrivals of refugees through the Channel, the Conservative executive led by Rishi Sunak has made the fight against illegal immigration a priority.

“A secure fence” for the “security” of migrants

To reduce the cost of accommodation currently offered in hotels, he decided in particular to use a barge moored at the quay in the English port of Portland, on the Channel coast.

The “Bibby Stockholm” arrived at its destination this week. As the first migrants are due to enter next week, the Interior Ministry has shown the premises to the press, with cabins including bunk beds, common areas for watching TV, a gym and computers available.

“It’s not a floating prison,” assured Leanne Palk, in charge of accommodation at the Home Office. “People can circulate as they want but we have a secure fence so that they do not venture into the port”, she added, referring to the need to ensure “security” for migrants. She felt they were unlikely to leave as their asylum application would be pending.

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Football as an occupation

A team of 60 staff will be present on site for maintenance and meal preparation. 18 security guards will guard the premises. A bus will allow them to reach the neighboring town. They will be offered activities such as playing football or hiking in the surrounding Dorset.

The mooring of the barge in Portland was marked by demonstrations and the government’s plans to house migrants in military bases or other sites are facing hostility from the residents and communities concerned.

According to the British press, mobilized cruise ships had to be sent back because they could not find a home port.

In 2022, more than 45,000 migrants crossed the Channel, especially from France, on board small boats, a record. They are some 14,000 to have made the dangerous crossing since the beginning of the year. In the first quarter, it was mainly Afghans.

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