Suella Braverman’s proposal to avoid using hotels to house asylum seekers ahead of an anticipated increase in small boat crossings involves accommodating up to 2,000 individuals in tents on disused military sites. A source from Whitehall revealed that the Home Secretary recently acquired the marquees and intends to have them ready for use by the end of August.
The number of unauthorised crossings this year has surpassed 14,000, challenging Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats.” To cope with the expected surge of boat arrivals, Ms. Braverman is working on contingency plans to set up the tents in the coming weeks.
A similar proposal from the past, which involved housing asylum seekers in tents, was turned down due to concerns about potential legal challenges based on the treatment of the individuals.
Additionally, there have been reports of a few positive tuberculosis cases at a former RAF site in Wethersfield, Braintree, Essex, with ongoing tests to determine their activity.
Despite safety concerns and local opposition, the Home Office plans to send the first batch of 50 people to the UK’s inaugural floating barge for asylum seekers on Tuesday. The Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, Dorset, is expected to eventually accommodate around 500 men at a time, aiming to reduce the reliance on hotels for housing asylum seekers while their claims are processed.
However, some refugee charities criticise the use of barges and former military bases for housing asylum seekers, citing concerns about the welfare and safety of vulnerable individuals. Conservative MPs representing the regions where these facilities are being established are also worried about the potential impact on their constituencies.
The Bibby Stockholm barge, which faced delays due to repairs, has arrived in Portland and has sparked protests from residents concerned about safety and the island’s capacity to support newcomers and existing residents.
A spokesperson from the Home Office emphasised that the welfare of those under their care is of utmost importance, and the barge is undergoing final preparations to ensure compliance with all relevant regulations before the first asylum seekers arrive in the following weeks.