Campaigners assail UK gov’t as 1st group of migrants arrives on Bibby Stockholm barge

Campaigners assail UK gov’t as 1st group of migrants arrives on Bibby Stockholm barge

'There are really, really serious issues of safety, let alone moral issues we've talked of here,' says protester from Stand Up To Racism group

By Burak Bir

PORTLAND, England (AA) - A group of people who had gathered on the isle of Portland criticized the British government’s asylum policies Monday as the first group of migrants arrived on the controversial Bibby Stockholm housing barge.

Protesters from the Stand Up To Racism group met near the entrance of Portland Port in the country’s southwest to protest against the government and to welcome asylum seekers who will be moving to the barge.

On Monday, some 15 asylum seekers were moved to the vessel as part of a plan that aims to house up to 500 men on the three-story barge while they await the results of their asylum applications.

Carrying placards, the protesters chanted slogans, including "Refugees are welcome here," "No prison barge" and "Stop the far-right."

Speaking to Anadolu, Chris Bradey, a 70-year-old member of the group, said he had come here to share his sympathy with the asylum seekers.

He said moving vulnerable asylum seekers, many of whom crossed dangerous waters on a barge, is a "disgrace."

"I think it is actually important (to point out) that these people are human beings like the rest of us and faced misfortunes of the war. I feel that we should open our hearts and humanity and say ‘welcome,’" said Bradey, who is a retired teacher.

Touching on the reactions of some local people against keeping the barge in Portland, he said that poor health services and low wages on the island are the reason behind this.

"They are going to be getting millions for berthing this barge, millions perhaps which should be poured into the island rather than into the pockets of the executives and directors of the port," he noted.

On reports regarding the fire safety risk of the barge, he said it is not "officially seaworthy."

"There are really, really serious issues of safety, let alone the moral issues we've talked of here."

Welcome packages were presented to the migrants containing necessities such as toiletries and they were also provided with phone numbers so that they could get help, said Bradey, adding they prepared the packages "just to make them feel that they are welcome."

- 'Government tries to divide public'

Another protester, Heather, who gave only her first name, said she has been against the barge from the beginning and has campaigned against the barge plan.

"I don't think it’s right that asylum seekers should be housed on a barge or in hotels. I think that we should be processing that quickly and efficiently so they are able to work and get on with their lives.”

Citing several reports and statements on the safety issue, she noted that they "are incredibly concerning," and accused the government of not valuing these people as human beings since their move to the barge has started despite warnings.

"I think this (barge) is a huge waste of money," said Heather, rejecting the government's claim that it is a cheaper option to house asylum seekers.

"Especially with the fire safety concerns. I think there is no way they will be able get 500 people on that barge now. If you can't get 500 people on the barge, than it is not cost-effective."

On the government's migration policies, she said it is trying to "politicize" this issue, "because they messed up so much that immigration is the only thing they can win...They try to divide us to make us hate asylum seekers."

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

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

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

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak listed 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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