The Home Office is taking proactive measures to handle the anticipated surge of Channel crossings by purchasing marquees that can accommodate up to 2,000 migrants at disused military sites. This emergency plan is a response to the expected increase in small boat journeys in the coming months. By utilizing temporary accommodation, the government aims to avoid last-minute expensive hotel bookings. While this is not a new approach, as the government previously used marquees at the Manston processing centre, it is part of a broader strategy to find alternative housing for asylum seekers and reduce the daily taxpayer cost of £6 million.
Concerns and Criticisms
Although the Home Office’s decision to use marquees as a temporary accommodation solution may seem practical, it has raised concerns among refugee charities and Conservative MPs representing areas where these facilities will be established. These organizations argue that such sites are not suitable for vulnerable individuals and raise safety concerns for migrants. Additionally, these MPs express worries about the impact on local services such as police and healthcare in their constituencies.
A Record Backlog and Strained System
The UK is grappling with a record backlog of asylum cases and a significant increase in unauthorized Channel crossings. As Prime Minister Rishi Sunak strives to “stop the boats,” the current system is showing signs of strain. In an effort to alleviate this strain, the Home Office plans to house asylum seekers in alternative locations, including the controversial Bibby Stockholm barge.
The Bibby Stockholm Solution
The Bibby Stockholm, a barge docked at Portland Port in Dorset, is set to accommodate the first group of 50 single men. Over the coming months, the number of residents on the barge is expected to rise to 500. Despite undergoing repairs and being a month behind schedule, the barge has now completed a statutory inspection and refurbishment. However, its arrival has been met with protests from concerned residents who question the island’s capability to support the newcomers and its existing population of around 13,000.
The Home Office acknowledges the concerns raised but emphasizes that the welfare of those in their care is of utmost priority. The Bibby Stockholm is currently undergoing final preparations to ensure compliance with all appropriate regulations before the arrival of the first asylum seekers in the coming weeks.
The Home Office’s decision to house migrants in marquees at disused military sites demonstrates a proactive approach to managing the expected surge of Channel crossings. While concerns have been raised by refugee charities and local MPs, the government’s aim to reduce costs and alleviate the strain on the system is evident. The utilization of alternative accommodations, such as the Bibby Stockholm barge, may be controversial but is seen as a necessary step to navigate the challenges posed by an increasing backlog of asylum cases and unauthorized Channel crossings.