1st migrant arrivals on UK barge delayed over fire concerns: Reports

1st migrant arrivals on UK barge delayed over fire concerns: Reports

UK's controversial migration policy will keep asylum seekers on floating ships while their requests are processed

By Burak Bir

LONDON (AA) - The British government's plan to start moving asylum seekers to the Bibby Stockholm barge has been delayed amid security concerns, local media reported Monday.

The Home Office had been planning to send the first 50 migrants to the barge moored at Portland Port in Dorset in the country’s southwest on Tuesday. The plan aims to house a total of 500 single male asylum seekers for at least the next 18 months.

The Times reported that the first arrival was delayed due to fire safety concerns about the vessel.

It said a source told the newspaper of fears the vessel could become a "floating Grenfell," referring to a 2017 fire in London’s Grenfell Tower apartment building that claimed 72 lives.

The UK's Fire Brigades Union (FBU) on Monday condemned the government's plans to house refugees on the Bibby Stockholm barge despite fire risks.

"Unlike this government, fire does not discriminate. Forcing asylum seekers into accommodation that has been properly fire risk assessed is a reckless approach to the safety and well-being of both vulnerable refugees and firefighters," the union's Assistant General Secretary Ben Selby said in a statement.

"Everyone has the right to live in safe accommodation, and we back the calls urging these plans are abandoned immediately," he added.

According to the government, facilities such as the Bibby Stockholm are "considerably more cost-effective than hotels."

Following reports of the delay, a Home Office spokesman said: "The Bibby Stockholm is now undergoing final preparations to ensure it complies with all appropriate regulations before the arrival of the first asylum seekers in the coming weeks."

People sent to this facility will be solely single adult men aged 18 to 65 who are currently staying at hotels.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak named tackling small boat crossings as one of his five priorities after over 45,000 migrants arrived in the country by crossing the English Channel last year.

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