Giant barge in Dorset could be used as accommodation for 500 asylum seekers

Bibby Stockholm

The Home Office is set to reveal plans for a ‘mega barge’ to be the UK’s first offshore accommodation for asylum seekers.

Reports in several outlets, including the Mirror and the Guardian, claim that Home Secretary Suella Braverman has signed a deal for the Bibby Stockholm to be used to house people arriving on small boats across the Channel.

It is understood the vessel will be moored at Portland in Dorset. Details could be confirmed as soon as today (4 April 2023).

The Bibby Stockholm is a 91-metre barge that can house 506 people in over 220 bedrooms on three decks. It has previously been used elsewhere in Europe to accommodate asylum seekers. In 2005, a watchdog called it an “oppressive environment” when the Dutch government used it to house 500 asylum seekers. The vessel’s operators, Liverpool-based Bibby Marine, says the ship has since been refurbished. It offers amenities including en suite bathrooms and a gym.

According to sources reported by the Mirror, chartering such a vessel costs £8,000 to £15,000 a day.

Last week, deputy prime minister, Dominic Raab, said “nothing is off the table” in the government’s plan to reduce the use of hotels to house asylum seekers. The Home Office recently announced its plans to house asylum seekers in barges and vessels, including disused cruise ships and ferries.

A Tory MP in Dorset has already launched a legal challenge over the plan to moor the Bibby Stockholm in Portland.

The Independent reports that Conservative MP Richard Drax has vowed: “We will look at any way we can stop this.” Drax insists the barge was being “dumped on our door” without consultation by the Home Office, and has urged home secretary Suella Braverman to scrap the idea.

The government has come under increased pressure from Tory backbenchers to find an alternative solution to housing migrants in hotels. Around 400 hotels are currently used to house around 51,000 asylum seekers nationally, at a reported daily cost of £6.2m.

However, Bloomberg reports that a 2022 home office document warned detaining asylum seekers on cruise ships and barges could end up being more expensive than housing them in hotels.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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