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Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Are big boats the solution to small boats?

The Guardian reports that Rishi Sunak has confirmed that the government have acquired two more giant barges to house about 1,000 people seeking refuge in the UK. As a result, thousands of asylum seekers could be housed in vessels moored near Newcastle, Harwich, Felixstowe and the Royal London docks.

The development came as ministers prepare for a new wave of people seeking asylum in small boats this summer, amid objections from local residents and legal action over plans to house people in disused military bases:

Conservative MPs and refugee charities have questioned whether the vessels will provide humane living conditions for people escaping war, famine and torture. Opposition MPs have said that the plans are a calculated diversion from the government’s failure to reduce the backlog of asylum claims.

Speaking at Dover, the prime minister said he would wait to announce where the new barges would be located as there would be “extensive engagement” with local communities.

He said another ship planned for 500 asylum seekers, which the government acquired in May, would arrive in Portland off the coast of Dorset within the next two weeks.

This was met with a furious reaction from the Conservative MP Richard Drax, who claimed it would be “nothing more than a quasi-prison”.

He told LBC: “They’ve got £9 a week to spend, which isn’t much money – what happens if they disappear? None of these questions have been answered.”

Of course if they spent the money needed for these inhumane solutions on speeding up the processing of asylum claims and worked with other countries to manage the flow of asylum seekers, then Sunak would have a much smaller problem to contend with. Resorting to Victorian-style prison hulks is no answer and could well be in breach of our international obligations.
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