Bibby Stockholm: First asylum seekers board housing barge in Dorset – BBC

The first small group of asylum seekers has boarded the controversial Bibby Stockholm housing barge after a series of delays over safety concerns.
Up to 500 men will eventually live on the vessel in Dorset while they await the outcome of asylum applications.
Some human rights groups have called the scheme "inhumane", but ministers insist it is safe and will save money.
The Home Office said 15 people had successfully got on to the vessel, but a group of about 20 refused to board.
Asked about the refusal, the department's director for asylum accommodation Cheryl Avery said she could not go into details "of the legal proceedings for each individual".
"But we are continuing to bring people on board… later this week and then over the coming weeks as well," she added.
Video footage showed people carrying bags being escorted on to the barge by staff in high-vis jackets and coaches were also seen arriving at Portland Port.
However a number of asylum seekers due to be sent on to the vessel did not board following legal challenges, refugee charity Care4Calais said.
Some had been expected to be transferred from a Bournemouth hotel, but a BBC reporter at the scene saw a large blue coach leave at about 12:40 BST with just one – or possibly two – passengers on board.
Care4Calais chief executive Steve Smith said: "None of the asylum seekers we are supporting have gone to the Bibby Stockholm today as legal representatives have had their transfers cancelled."
Among them were people who are "disabled, who have survived torture and modern slavery and who have had traumatic experiences at sea", he added.
Bibby Stockholm is the flagship of the government's latest plan to "stop the boats" and deter dangerous Channel crossings by migrants.
Home Office minister Sarah Dines said it would provide "basic but proper accommodation" and would send "a forceful message that there will be proper accommodation but not luxurious".
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Watch the moment Bibby Stockholm docks at Portland
The number of asylum seekers being housed in hotels has gone up by 3,000 since the end of March. Interim figures released by the Home Office show a record 50,546 were in so-called contingency accommodation at the end of June.
The 222-room, three-storey barge arrived in Portland Port three weeks ago, chartered by the government to reduce what it says is the £6m-a-day cost of placing asylum seekers in hotels.
Ministers plan to increase the numbers aboard up to 500, despite safety warnings from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) which has raised concerns over narrow exits and possible overcrowding.
The Home Office says the men aged 18-65, from various countries, could spend nine months on board the barge, which it views as safe and has previously been used to accommodate homeless people and asylum seekers in Germany and the Netherlands.
At the end of July the number of asylum decision-makers employed by the Home Office was 1,729, up from 1,556 a month earlier. The backlog of cases awaiting an initial decision is at 136,779, slightly down on the previous month when it was 138,700.
Ms Dines also said "all possibilities" were being examined on tackling the migrant crisis amid reports the government is looking at flying illegal migrants to the British overseas territory Ascension Island, in the middle of the southern Atlantic.
Amnesty International compared the Bibby Stockholm to "prison hulks from the Victorian era", saying it was an "utterly shameful way to house people who've fled terror, conflict and persecution".
Freedom from Torture, which provides therapeutic care for survivors of torture seeking protection in the UK, said the government should stop "forcing refugees to live in unsafe and undignified accommodation".
Senior ministers hope to confirm the use of further barges in the coming months but they have struggled to find ports prepared to host them so far.
A site next to London City airport and another on the River Mersey in Wirral were among those rejected.
However, the government believes a successful scheme in Dorset will help encourage other areas to sign up.
It said there were currently about 51,000 "destitute migrants" in hotels across the UK, costing the taxpayer more than £6m a day.
The Home Office said its plans for alternative accommodation – including two more barges and three ex-military bases in East Sussex, Essex and Lincolnshire – offered better value.
A spokesman said it had produced a factsheet to answer common questions about the Bibby Stockholm.
However, the full costs of the barge have not been disclosed, with refugee campaign group Reclaim The Sea claiming it would cost more than hotels.
The vessel – chartered for an initial 18-month trial – includes catering, a TV room, a multi-faith prayer room and a gym.
Migrants will be free to leave on hourly buses to Weymouth and Portland, although they are encouraged to return by 23:00 each night.
The Home Office said the barge occupants would undergo security screening and Dorset Police has said it does not expect any impact.
Dorset Council is receiving £3,500 per occupied bedspace on the barge, with additional funding provided to the local NHS and police.
The council has also received almost £380,000 in a one-off grant to help support local charity and voluntary organisations provide services, it is understood.
The Labour Party has been repeatedly pressed on whether it would continue to use the barge to house asylum seekers if it was in power.
Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said barges would continue to be used in the short term due to what he described as "the complete and utter chaos and shambles of the Tory asylum crisis".
On Tuesday the government is formally launching a new team tasked with tackling what Home Secretary Suella Braverman described as "crooked immigration lawyers", a small minority of law firms accused of encouraging illegal migrants to make false asylum claims.
The Home Office said the Professional Enablers Taskforce had begun "preliminary work" in recent months and featured representatives of legal regulatory bodies, law enforcement and government departments.
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said it would "hold to account unscrupulous lawyers who aid and abet" people making false asylum claims.
Separately, it said the Solicitors Regulation Authority had suspended three law firms last week who were offering to help with bogus claims.
Labour's shadow justice secretary, Steve Reed, said the government was "setting up a talking shop instead of cracking down on those who abuse our immigration system".
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