Government ‘prepared to row’ over migrant ‘accommodation barge’

Braverman slams ‘out of touch lefties’ for migrant criticism

The Government is planning to house migrants and asylum seekers on barges and former military bases in an effort to cut costs and dissuade people from coming to the UK in plans unveiled today. Immigration minister Robert Jenrick is set to announce the plans to move migrants to “rudimentary accommodation” as the UK is currently spending more than £6million-a-day on hotels. Although questions have been raised over how barges can be made safe, a government source has said they are prepared to row over concerns.

Migrants and asylum seekers are to be moved from hotels to former ex-RAF bases as well as barges with Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab saying “nothing is off the table”.

The initiative hopes to deter migrants and asylum seekers from making the treacherous journey to the UK illegally. So far this year, 3,770 people have arrived in small boats.

The new plans set to be unveiled by Robert Jenrick today will see the “accommodation barge”, which can hold hundreds of people and be set up in a port to house migrants who currently live in hotels, according to the Times.

Discussions are currently at an “early stage”, with a Government source acknowledging there are both safety and practicality concerns.

Mr Raab, speaking to Sky News, said the Government would “look at” putting migrants and asylum seekers on barges as the hotels are acting as an “incentive”.

According to Government data, the number of people living in contingency accommodation, which is predominantly hotels, has risen from 2,577 in March 2020 to 37,142 in September last year.

When asked whether the policy would be illegal, as has previously been suggested, Mr Raab said: “I don’t think it would be illegal, it depends on the circumstances, the conditions.”

The plans are also set to see 3,000 migrants moved from hotels to two RAF bases, in Scampton, Lincolnshire, and Wethersfield, Essex, as part of the £70million contract.

The latter is a former World War 2 and Cold War RAF base which is said to have played a key role in the Battle of Britain.

Not all MPs support the use of former military bases. Earlier this month Foreign Secretary James Cleverly questioned whether MDP Wethersfield was an “appropriate” location with campaigners in the area also objecting to the move.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has also criticised the plans, stating that the fundamental problem that needs to be addressed is the time it takes to process claims.

Since December 2017, the number of people in the UK waiting for an asylum decision has increased by 408 percent, with 166,261 people waiting at the end of last year, according to the Institute for Government.

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Mr Streeting also told Sky News: “I think this is what the Government’s trying to spin – is that we’ve got this problem of housing people in hotels, it can be expensive – we’ll put them on barges instead, we’ll put them in barracks instead.

“But we have the absurd spectacle of Conservative MPs campaigning against putting people in barracks in their constituencies, just as they did with hotels in their constituencies.”

The news comes as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the Commons liaison committee yesterday that asylum flights to Rwanda have “not been promised” to take place by the summer.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman had told reporters earlier this month that “we are certainly working towards getting the flights off before the summer”.

Yet, Mr Sunak said: “What we’ve said is, we will start flights as soon as we can after legal proceedings have been completed.”

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