Angry scenes as huge barge for asylum seeker housing docks in England

Protesters in Portland in Dorset after the Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge arrived.
Protesters in Portland in Dorset after the Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge arrived. Copyright Ben Birchall/PA via AP
By Scott Reid
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Criticism from pro-refugee groups, locals and politicians as UK government takes first step in what it calls a move to reduce the cost of accommodation.


A huge barge which could house up to 500 asylum seekers has arrived in Dorset, in the south of England, angering pro-refugee groups and many locals. 

The Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge docked at the privately-owned Portland Port on Tuesday. 

Pro-refugee protesters and local campaigners expressed their anger. 

Speaking to Euronews, Alex Bailey from the No To The Barge campaign group criticised the government's actions.

"This community hasn't been consulted, this community hasn't been considered, and therefore never gave its consent." 

He said the situation was "inhumane" both for local people and for the asylum seekers themselves. 

"There's two parties to this issue and they're being used as a government tool by this pet project from the Cabinet," he added. "(The asylum seekers) are going to be crammed into small spaces, on barges ... that's not humane, that's not what the British are about and it's cruel." 

Stand up to Racism demonstrators also gathered at the port entrance. 

Protestor Lainey told the BBC: "We utterly don't support the barge - it's the wrong place for it to be. We are totally in support of the refugees when they arrive."

Video footage from the scene showed protesters arguing over the situation.

In a statement to Euronews, a spokesman for Portland Port said: “The Bibby Stockholm has arrived at Portland. It will be connected to Portland Port’s fresh water and mains sewerage network over the coming days as part of preparations for the arrival of the first group of asylum seekers in the coming weeks.”

Beyond referring us to an FAQ, it said any further issues were a matter for the UK government's Home Office.

Dorset Council remains opposed to the move but, at a meeting last week, councillor Laura Beddow said the council had been told legal action against the move it had been considering was unlikely to succeed.

The council told Euronews it would not be putting anyone up for interview and pointed to the fact it is a Home Office scheme in arrangement with Portland Port. 

It instead pointed to comments by council leader Spencer Flower at a council meeting, where he continued to argue that it "is the wrong place for the barge".

However, he added that the barge was outside of their planning control and therefore there was no need for planning permission from the council. 

The Bibby Stockholm is the first vessel secured until Home Secretary Suella Braverman's plans to reduce the cost of asylum accommodation by housing asylum seekers on barges, rather than paying for hotels. 

In a Tweet, the Home Office defended the move. "Next week the first asylum seekers will be moved to the vessel as part of a carefully structured plan which will increase the numbers gradually," it said. "The Home Office is providing substantial funding to minimise the impact locally."

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