Asylum barge plan ‘unworkable’, critics say after Braverman’s missed target

Asylum barge plan ‘unworkable’, critics say after Braverman’s missed target

Suella Braverman’s plan to house asylum seekers on barges was branded “unworkable” as she missed her own target for the first vessel to be in place.

The Bibby Stockholm accommodation vessel, which will house around 500 people, is not yet in Portland Port, Dorset despite Mrs Braverman promising MPs it would be in the dock a week ago.

The barge is currently in Falmouth, Cornwall for checks, maintenance and refurbishment work.

On Monday June 5, the Home Secretary told the Commons “we will see an accommodation barge arrive in Portland within the next fortnight”.

Suella Braverman visit to London charities
Home Secretary Suella Braverman promised the boat would be in Portland by June 19 (Yui Mok/PA)

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “This seems to be another case of Home Office policy by press release that is failing to materialise.

“Braverman’s plan for a barge on the Dorset coast is an unworkable plan that is wasting time and money, much like all of this government’s asylum policy.

“The Home Secretary needs to get her priorities straight.

“She should focus instead on tackling the backlog of asylum cases created by her government’s sheer incompetence, which has created the need for this plan in the first place.”

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Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said the plan was unworkable (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Home Secretary wants to use barges and sites including converted military bases to house asylum seekers and reduce the £6 million daily cost of hotel accommodation while people await a decision on their status.

The Bibby Stockholm was the first barge secured under the plan, but its journey to Portland will now take place in the coming weeks, according to the Home Office.

Within weeks of its arrival, the first group of asylum seekers are expected to be placed on board, building up in phases to its eventual capacity of 500.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman said: “I believe it will be in place fairly shortly.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The pressure on the asylum system has continued to grow and requires us to look at a range of accommodation options which offer better value for the British taxpayer than expensive hotels.

“This is why we will be using alternative accommodation options, such as barges, which are more manageable for communities, as our European neighbours are doing.

“We are continuing to work extremely closely with Dorset and Portland councils, as well as the local NHS and police services, to manage any impact in Portland and address the local communities’ concerns, including through substantial financial support.”