UK installs ‘Bibby Stockholm’, barge for asylum seekers, in Portland harbor

A barge intended to receive asylum seekers docked in Portland on Tuesday July 18, on a Dorset peninsula in the south of the United Kingdom, sparking criticism from residents and outraged human rights defenders. Bibby Stockholm is a boat over 93 meters with 222 cabins on three levels, according to the presentation of its operator Bibby Marine, which the British authorities intend to accommodate some 500 single adult men.

The ship is expected to remain in port for at least eighteen months according to the British Home Office, which specified in a statement of April 5, that the barge would provide accommodation “basic and functional” including care and catering offers. He assured that this initiative “will serve to reduce the unsustainable pressure on the UK asylum system and to reduce the cost to the taxpayer of the significant increase in Channel crossings”, specifying that the accommodation of asylum seekers in hotels today costs 6 million pounds per day (6.9 million euros) to public finances.

“The Home Secretary and I have been clear that the use of expensive hotels to house those undertaking unnecessary and dangerous journeys must end”according to Robert Jenrick, the Minister of Immigration, quoted in this press release, adding: “We are not going to prioritize the interests of illegal migrants over [ceux du] British people. » The Ministry of the Interior specifies that it is in talks with other ports so that they can accommodate barges of the same type.

“We don’t know anything about their profiles”

On the spot, the opposition to Bibby Stockholm appears divided between advocates for the rights of asylum seekers and those primarily concerned about public tranquility, according to a local media account Dorset Echo. On Tuesday, the Stand Up to Racism in Dorset and No to the Barge collectives were harshly insulted in Portland before a police intervention lowered the tension. ” They [Stand Up to Racism] think we’re racist but that’s not the point”a member of No to the Barge testified to the Dorset Echo. “It’s about having 500 men on such a small island when we don’t know their profiles and we don’t have enough doctors and nurses. »

Exchanges between two groups of demonstrators against the barge

The barge is criticized as the British Parliament adopted, on the night of Monday to Tuesday, a controversial law on immigration, prohibiting migrants who arrived illegally in the United Kingdom from seeking asylum there. The government also wants migrants, after being detained, to be quickly deported to their country of origin or to a third country such as Rwanda, wherever they come from.

The UN denounced this law on Tuesday in a press release. The new legislation “significantly erodes the legal framework that has protected so many people, putting refugees at grave risk in violation of international law”said Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, while Volker Turk, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on the British government “to renew its commitment to human rights by repealing this law”.

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