• #Home_Office planning to house asylum seekers on disused cruise ships

    Exclusive: Ministers facing growing anger from Tory backbenchers over use of hotels in their constituencies

    The Home Office is planning to use disused cruise ships to house asylum seekers amid growing anger from Conservative backbenchers over the use of hotels in their constituencies.

    Ministers are looking at possible vessels including a former cruise ship from Indonesia, which would be moored in south-west England, the Guardian understands.

    During the Conservative leadership campaign last summer, Rishi Sunak proposed putting illegal immigrants on cruise ships moored around the country but was warned it could be illegal under the Human Rights Act and the European convention on human rights.

    Downing Street confirmed he had dropped the idea to use the ships to house asylum seekers, which critics said would amount to arbitrary detention, once he became prime minister last October.

    Sources suggested, however, that the cruise ships could be registered as hotels rather than detention centres to get around possible legal challenges.

    The immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, is due to make an announcement on Wednesday regarding asylum accommodation amid speculation that it will include the use of boats and military barracks. It could also disclose plans to make use of a clause in the levelling up bill to force councils to accept large-scale accommodation for those seeking asylum.

    Multiple reports on Tuesday night suggested a plan to house asylum seekers on giant barges normally used for offshore construction projects could also be announced.

    The barges are built to house hundreds of people, although a government source told the Times that plans were at an “early stage” and had significant practical issues that needed to be addressed.

    The disclosure comes as the Home Office admitted nearly 400 hotels across the country were being used to accommodate more than 51,000 people at a reported cost of more than £6m a day.

    Sunak is under pressure to come up with alternatives as Conservative MPs, including members of his own cabinet, object to plans to move some people from hotels into former military bases.

    Suella Braverman, the home secretary, is expected to announce alternatives to hotel accommodation as soon as this week. They are expected to be used for new arrivals initially, rather than to rehouse people who are in hotels.

    The prime minister managed to face down a potentially big rebellion on Monday as up to 60 Tory MPs attempted to amend the new illegal migration bill by giving UK courts the power to ignore rulings by Strasbourg judges.

    Whitehall sources confirmed that the government had “in recent months” examined plans including using cruise ships from across the world, which could be brought to the UK and then used to house asylum seekers.

    The ships would be moored off the coast, emulating an approach by the Scottish government, which housed Ukrainian refugees in two 700-cabin ships. They were docked in Glasgow and Edinburgh and could hold 1,750 people each.

    Braverman said she would not rule out the use of former cruise ships when questioned in December by a House of Lords committee. “We will bring forward a range of alternative sites, they will include disused holiday parks, former student halls – I should say we are looking at those sites – I wouldn’t say anything is confirmed yet.

    “But we need to bring forward thousands of places, and when you talk about vessels all I can say is – because we are in discussion with a wide variety of providers – that everything is still on the table and nothing is excluded,” she said.

    It comes amid a Tory backlash over hotels in constituencies being used to house asylum seekers.

    Ministers had also drawn up plans to use two military bases that were identified to house asylum seekers earlier this year – RAF Scampton, the Dambusters’ base in Lincolnshire, and MDP Wethersfield in Braintree, Essex. But they are facing opposition from local Conservative politicians. Council leaders in Braintree are taking legal action to stop up to 5,000 people being moved to the site over the space of a year.

    James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, who is the local MP, wrote on his Facebook page that Wethersfield was inappropriate as an asylum camp because of “the remote nature of the site, limited transport infrastructure and narrow road network”.

    The local council in Scampton is seeking listed status for the Lincolnshire base, while historians and RAF veterans have written to the government asking for the plans to be halted.

    One government source, asked about the possible use of cruise ships, said ministers were working to end the use of hotels and bring forward a range of alternative sites for longer-term accommodation. But they would not discuss details of individual sites or proposals that could be used for bridging or asylum accommodation.

    A government spokesperson said: “We have always been upfront about the unprecedented pressure being placed on our asylum system, brought about by a significant increase in dangerous and illegal journeys into the country.

    “We continue to work across government and with local authorities to identify a range of accommodation options. The government remains committed to engaging with local authorities and key stakeholders as part of this process.”

    #hébergement #asile #réfugiés #migrations #bateaux #bateaux_de_croisière #bateau_de_croisière #Angleterre #UK


    ajouté à la métaliste sur la Bibby Stockholm :

    ajouté à la métaliste #migrations et #tourisme :

    • Air force bases set to be used to house migrants as ministers hunt for cheaper alternatives to hotels

      The Government are reportedly also considering a former cruise ship from Indonesia, which would be moored in south-west England, as a possible site

      Migrants will be housed at two air force bases in a bid to cut down on the use of hotels and deter people from crossing the Channel on small boats, the immigration minister is expected to announce on Wednesday.

      #RAF_Scampton in Lincolnshire, the former home of the Dambusters and Red Arrows, and #RAF_Wethersfield in Essex are expected to be among the accommodation sites for asylum seekers confirmed by Robert Jenrick, despite local opposition.

      The announcement is being made with the aim of ending the use of hotels for migrants – a pledge the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has made. More than 51,000 people are being housed in 395 hotels, according to the BBC, at an estimated cost of £5.6m a day. Holiday parks and student halls are not expected to be included on the initial list of new sites.

      The Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, has found himself at odds with his own government over plans to house asylum seekers at RAF Wethersfield, which is in his constituency.

      Braintree District Council is taking legal action against the Home Office in an attempt to secure an injunction against plans to house 1,500 migrants at RAF #Wethersfield.

      Veteran Tory MP Sir Edward Leigh has meanwhile raised concerns that using RAF Scampton to house asylum seekers could put at risk a £300 million investment plan for the site.

      A plan to turn a former RAF base in Linton-on-Ouse, in the constituency of Mr Sunak’s close ally Kevin Hollinrake, into a processing centre for asylum seekers, was meanwhile ditched under Liz Truss.

      During the Tory leadership contest last summer, the Prime Minister pledged to use “cruise ships” as part of efforts to “end the farce of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money being spent every day on housing illegal migrants in hotels”.

      Downing Street did not respond to a question on whether that meant the prospect of using cruise ships has now been shelved.

      The Guardian reports that the Government was considering a former cruise ship from Indonesia, which would be moored in south-west England, as a possible site.

      According to The Sun, an announcement on nautical accommodation will be made in the coming days.

      There are reports ministers are said to be considering obtaining accommodation barges – typically used for offshore construction projects with only basic facilities – which could house hundreds of migrants who are currently in hotels.

      The plan is at an “early stage”, The Times reported, with ministers not yet decided on where the barge or barges will be stationed, though they are expected to be stationed at port, rather than at sea.

      A source told The Times the Government was aware of “significant practical issues” with these vessels, and it was not clear how safety would be dealt with, though a source told the newspaper: “It’s a row we’re prepared to have.”

      The Government is said to be keen on the idea as a way to discourage people from crossing the Channel and is pointing to countries like France housing refugees in floating vessels.

      Meanwhile, right-wing Tory rebel Jonathan Gullis said it would be “perfectly acceptable” to house asylum seekers in tents while they await for deportation, amid concerns about the cost of hotels.

      During a debate on the Illegal Migration Bill, ministers were also urged to give “serious assurances” they will not return to the “barbaric days” of detaining children in immigration centres.

      Conservative former minister Tim Loughton led calls for the Government to confirm it would not place migrant children in indefinite detention if they come to the UK by unauthorised means.

      Centrist Tories were joined by MPs from across the political spectrum who are worried that a coalition government-era policy not to detain children could be overturned.

      The announcement comes after months of pressure from Tory MPs over the use of hotels for asylum seekers, at a cost of £5.6m a day.

      But it will also be a test of the Government’s ability to override local opposition to build new asylum sites.

      Plans for alternative sites have however triggered a backlash from some Tory MPs over now-abandoned plans to house asylum seekers in Pontins holiday parks in Southport and Camber Sands.

      #bases_aériennes #Scampton

    • Au Royaume-Uni, des #barges pour parquer les réfugiés qui traversent la Manche

      Le gouvernement britannique multiplie les annonces censées dissuader les migrants de traverser. La dernière innovation prévoit d’installer les demandeurs d’asile sur d’anciennes embarcations, dans les ports, le temps de leur procédure. Le premier ministre se targue d’avoir déjà fait baisser le nombre de passages depuis la France.

      LeLe feuilleton au Royaume-Uni se poursuit. Les exilé·es, qui en sont les actrices et acteurs principaux, ne sont pour autant jamais consulté·es. On parle d’elles et d’eux comme des « indésirables » qu’il faudrait éloigner, tantôt en usant de machines capables de générer des vagues en mer, tantôt en les parquant sur des ferrys hors d’usage en mer.

      Il y a eu ensuite l’accord non officiel signé entre le Royaume-Uni et le Rwanda, visant à acter le projet de sous-traitance des demandes d’asile à un pays tiers. Un accord décrié et vivement critiqué par les membres de la société civile, mais aussi des chercheurs et chercheuses, qui soulignaient combien cette externalisation venait saboter le droit d’asile.

      Faute de pouvoir encore les envoyer au Rwanda – l’accord a fait l’objet d’un recours devant la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme (CEDH), puis devant la justice britannique fin 2022 –, le gouvernement a décidé plus récemment d’installer une barge au sud-ouest du pays pour y parquer les demandeurs et demandeuses d’asile qui parviendraient à rejoindre le Royaume-Uni de manière irrégulière.

      L’objectif ? Dissuader les personnes exilées de tenter la traversée de la Manche, alors que le nombre de traversées n’a jamais été aussi élevé en 2022, et qu’un terrible naufrage survenu le 24 novembre 2021 ayant coûté la vie à au moins 27 migrant·es est venu souligner les défaillances du secours en mer.

      Satisfait des résultats de son « plan », le premier ministre britannique, Rishi Sunak, a annoncé l’installation de deux nouvelles barges pour l’accueil de demandeurs et demandeuses d’asile, d’une capacité de 500 personnes chacune, d’ici cet été. Le gouvernement entend ainsi réduire de moitié la facture correspondant à l’hébergement des migrant·es dans les hôtels du pays, qui s’élèverait à 6 millions de livres (soit environ 7 millions d’euros) par jour.
      Un « plan » qui fonctionnerait déjà

      La toute première barge, baptisée Bibby Stockholm, a fait l’objet d’une rénovation à Falmouth et sera installée au port de Portland, une petite île située au sud-ouest de Londres. Elle devrait accueillir 500 personnes pour un total de 200 chambres, et sera surveillée en permanence dans l’objectif de préserver la population locale, avancent les autorités.

      La barge aurait coûté, selon le journal The Times, près de 20 000 livres (soit 23 000 euros), et le dispositif coûterait « nettement moins cher que les hôtels », a affirmé Rishi Sunak. La ministre de l’intérieur britannique, Suella Braverman, avait déjà affirmé le souhait de freiner l’hébergement des demandeurs et demandeuses d’asile dans les hôtels, compte tenu du coût que cela engendrait « pour le contribuable ».

      Le 5 juin, le premier ministre a tenu un discours particulièrement dur à leur endroit, renvoyant dos à dos les difficultés économiques rencontrées par les Britanniques dans un contexte d’inflation et le coût de l’accueil des migrant·es.

      « Notre plan commence à fonctionner. Avant que l’on ne le mette en place en décembre, le nombre de personnes ayant traversé illégalement la Manche avait quadruplé en deux ans. Mais en cinq mois, les traversées ont baissé de 20 % par rapport à l’an dernier », a-t-il rassuré. Ce serait la première fois, insiste Rishi Sunak, qu’une baisse des arrivées serait observée sur la période de janvier à mai.

      « Je ne me reposerai pas tant que les bateaux ne sont pas stoppés », a-t-il poursuivi, indiquant utiliser « tous les outils à disposition » ; à commencer par la diplomatie, puisque le partenariat avec la France aurait permis d’empêcher 33 000 traversées en 2022, soit une hausse de 40 % des interceptions.

      L’accord signé avec l’Albanie en décembre dernier, pour réduire les migrations depuis « un pays sûr, européen », aurait lui aussi porté ses fruits. Alors que les Albanais·es représentaient un tiers des arrivées en small boats (lire nos reportages ici et là), Rishi Sunak se vante d’avoir ainsi fait baisser ce chiffre de près de 90 %, et d’avoir expulsé 1 800 ressortissant·es albanais·es en l’espace de six mois.

      « C’est bien la preuve que notre stratégie de détermination peut fonctionner. Quand les gens savent qu’en venant ici illégalement, ils ne pourront pas rester, ils ne viennent plus. »

      Pour « sortir » les demandeurs et demandeuses d’asile du schéma classique d’hébergement dans les hôtels, le gouvernement compte par ailleurs se servir de lieux « alternatifs », comme des bases militaires situées à Wethersfield et à Scampton, où des centaines de personnes devraient être transférées d’ici à cet été, et 3 000 d’ici à l’automne. Celles et ceux restant dans les hôtels pourront être amenés à partager une même chambre avec plusieurs personnes, « lorsque c’est approprié ».
      L’externalisation toujours d’actualité

      « Et je dis à ces migrants qui protestent : ceci est plus que juste. Si vous venez ici illégalement, en quête d’une protection après avoir fui la mort, la torture ou la persécution, alors vous devriez pouvoir partager une chambre d’hôtel, payée par le contribuable, dans le centre de Londres. »

      À l’avenir, le gouvernement britannique mise aussi sur la réforme de la loi sur l’immigration et espère, une fois tous les recours en justice « terminés », pouvoir mettre en pratique la nouvelle loi sur la migration, qui permettrait de placer en détention toute personne arrivée illégalement sur le territoire, avant de l’expulser, soit vers son pays d’origine, soit vers un pays tiers comme le Rwanda, avec lequel un accord a été signé en ce sens.

      « Nous voulons que les choses soient claires, a martelé Rishi Sunak lors de son discours empli de fermeté. Je sais que ce sont des mesures difficiles. Et je ne m’en excuserai pas. »

      Dans un rapport rendu public le 11 juin, le comité mixte des droits de l’homme du Parlement britannique a exhorté le gouvernement à « ne pas enfreindre ses obligations légales envers les réfugiés, les enfants et les victimes de l’esclavage moderne », et à « jouer son rôle dans le système international de protection des réfugiés ». Invitée à répondre aux questions des membres de ce comité, la ministre de l’intérieur n’a pas donné suite.

      Le rapport final, qui contient une liste de recommandations telles que le respect effectif du droit d’asile ou du droit européen (comme les mesures de la CEDH), le non-recours à la détention des migrant·es et la protection des mineur·es non accompagné·es et autres publics vulnérables, appelle le gouvernement à répondre dans les deux mois.

      Celui-ci n’y répondra sans doute pas, considérant que la lutte contre la « migration illégale » est une priorité urgente pour laquelle tous les moyens sont permis.
      La société civile ne cesse de dire son inquiétude

      « Nous sommes profondément inquiets de voir que le gouvernement prévoit d’héberger un nombre grandissant de demandeurs d’asile dans des lieux totalement inadaptés à leurs besoins », avait dénoncé dans un tweet le Refugee Council, une organisation venant en aide aux personnes migrantes et réfugiées en Angleterre, réagissant à l’annonce de l’installation de la première barge.

      Sans compter la portée symbolique associée au fait de loger des personnes ayant traversé la Manche – et potentiellement d’autres eaux – à bord d’une embarcation qui, bien qu’elle soit à quai, ne peut que raviver le souvenir d’un parcours migratoire souvent dangereux et des vies que la mer emporte régulièrement, quand elle ne renforce pas le sentiment d’insécurité lié à une potentielle expulsion.

      Le Royaume-Uni a finalement réinventé le concept de « zone d’attente », mais pour les demandeurs et demandeuses d’asile. Reste à savoir dans quelle mesure leur liberté de circulation sera respectée ou non.

      Si le gouvernement britannique assure que la portée dissuasive de son discours et de ses mesures « fonctionne », il serait bon de se pencher sur les résultats concrets d’une telle politique, qui pousse les personnes exilées à davantage de précarité : celles qui n’osent effectivement plus tenter la traversée n’ont que la perspective des camps et de la rue pour horizon, à l’heure où l’État maintient une politique « zéro point de fixation » pour éviter que la jungle de Calais ne se reforme et où l’accueil des migrant·es est toujours plus décousu.

      Celles qui tentent toutefois de rejoindre le Royaume-Uni en small boat prennent de plus en plus de risques, partant désormais de communes plus éloignées des côtes anglaises pour éviter les contrôles et patrouilles des forces de l’ordre, dont les effectifs sont particulièrement présents aux abords des plages servant de points de départ.

      L’association Utopia 56, très présente sur le littoral pour venir en aide aux exilé·es, n’a d’ailleurs pas tardé à réagir aux annonces de Rishi Sunak. « Pourtant, ces quatre derniers jours, 1 519 personnes ont traversé la Manche et nos équipes ont reçu douze appels d’embarcations en détresse. Rishi Sunak, Gérald Darmanin, malgré les effets d’annonce, vos politiques violentes ne mènent à rien, sinon à pousser les personnes à risquer leur vie », a tweeté l’organisation le 14 juin.


    • Government quietly awards travel firm £1.6bn contract for asylum barges and accommodation

      Fury over astonishing sum to operate barges and run services to house asylum seekers in Britain

      An Australian travel firm previously slammed for its handling of Covid quarantine hotels has been quietly handed a £1.6bn contract covering the UK’s new asylum accommodation ships, The Independent can reveal.

      #Corporate_Travel_Management (#CTM) was put in charge of the lucrative two-year arrangement in February, weeks before the government revealed it would use a barge as its first offshore accommodation for asylum seekers.

      The contract was awarded directly to CTM without competition, and a lawyer with knowledge of the system said the government had pushed a wider deal originally drawn up for official travel “beyond what it was intended to be used for”.

      Ministers have repeatedly refused to detail the projected cost of Rishi Sunak’s controversial asylum vessels, while insisting they will be cheaper than using hotels that are currently costing £6m a day.

      This week, Suella Braverman told parliament’s Home Affairs Committee she could not predict the cost of the new Illegal Migration Bill, because there are “many unknown factors”.

      Three vessels so far have been announced, with a barge named the “Bibby Stockholm” due to arrive in Portland, Dorset later this month and a further two ships set for undisclosed locations.

      Richard Drax, the Conservative MP for South Dorset, said the public “should know how much is being paid” on the barge set-up and said the spending he was aware of so far was “alarmingly high”.

      “The point is this is taxpayers’ money,” he told The Independent. “This contract might actually be separate to what the ports are being paid.

      “Then on top of that, the police want money, the health authority wants money, of course the council wants money, and yet the government continues to insist that this is cheaper than hotels. The overall figure will be alarmingly high.”

      Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said the Home Office has “serious questions to answer”.

      “The Tories are spending more and more taxpayers’ money on their total failure to fix the asylum backlog they have created,” she added.

      “This is an incredibly expensive contract with no clarity on whether proper procedures have been followed, and the barges come on top of costly hotels, not instead of them, because of the government failure to take asylum decisions or get any grip.”

      The CTM contract, published under the title “provision of bridging accommodation and travel services”, states that it has an estimated value of £1,593,535,200 over two years and could be extended beyond 2025.

      The Home Office refused to answer The Independent’s questions on what portion of the contract covers barges, and parts of official documents headed “pricing details” have been redacted in full because of “commercial interests”.

      John O’Connell, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “This murky contract leaves taxpayers in the dark. The migrant crisis may require an urgent response, but bungled procurement has cost a fortune in recent years.

      “Ministers must ensure transparency and value for money when tendering services.”

      Answering a parliamentary question on the Bibby Stockholm in May, immigration minister Robert Jenrick said it would be managed “by a specialist and experienced provider, which has a strong track record of providing this kind of accommodation”. He added that the provider had “managed two vessels [housing Ukrainian refugees] in Scottish ports for the past year”.

      On its website, CTM describes itself as “a global provider of innovative and cost-effective travel solutions spanning corporate, events, leisure, loyalty and wholesale travel”.

      The firm says it was established in Brisbane in 1994 and has since grown from a “two-person start-up into one of the world’s most successful travel management companies”, operating across Australasia, Asia, the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It has two UK offices in London and Manchester.

      The firm’s most recent financial report hailed record profits, having taken A$292m (£160m) in revenue over the last six months of 2022.

      A notice to its shareholders celebrated the new contract’s “significant impact” on financial growth, adding: “This work involves highly complex services and logistic support… CTM has both the experience and specialised knowledge to support this work.”

      The government placed the new barges under a pre-existing agreement with CTM for “travel and venue solutions”, which previously covered official bookings for conferences, flights, train tickets, hotels and vehicle hire for ministers and civil servants.

      A source familiar with the drawing up of the overarching framework accused the government of “pushing the scope beyond what it was intended to be used for”.

      “If products and services are outside scope there’s a procurement failure and the contract has been awarded without following the rules,” they told The Independent. “It doesn’t look like the right vehicle for this kind of contract and it looks like they’ve done it to minimise visibility.”

      The remit of CTM’s government work was widened during the pandemic and its general manager for northern England, Michael Healy, was made an OBE in the 2021 New Year honours list over the repatriation of British nationals stranded abroad during the Covid pandemic.

      A report by parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee found that the operation was “too slow and placed too much reliance on commercial providers”, but CTM was then handed a contract for operating quarantine hotels and mandatory testing.

      In a series of angry Google reviews that dragged the company’s rating down to 1.4 stars, one person called CTM “incompetent”, while another wrote: “Shame on the Tory government UK, on whoever decided to give them this contract.”

      Several MPs raised their constituents’ poor experiences in parliament, with one presenting a formal petition demanding compensation and saying the way the contract was awarded “avoided due process or competition”.

      CTM was later involved in operations to transport Afghans and Ukrainians to the UK, and operated two cruise ships used to temporarily house Ukrainian refugees in Scotland.

      That contract, which was also awarded without competition under the same framework as the new barges, covered two ships and hotels, and had an estimated value of £100m.

      CTM declined to comment and did not answer The Independent’s request for details of what the contract covered.

      A Home Office spokesperson said: “The pressure on the asylum system has continued to grow and requires us to look at a range of accommodation options, which offer better value for money for taxpayers than hotels. It is right that we explore all available options.

      “CTM was awarded the contract to deliver accommodation for the Home Office after an extensive procurement process and has a strong track record of providing this kind of accommodation.

      “We are pleased that they will be providing management for Bibby Stockholm, the two additional vessels announced by the prime minister, as well as bridging accommodation and travel services.”


    • Le “prigioni galleggianti”: il nuovo piano del Regno Unito per la prima accoglienza

      L’intervista a Tigs Louis-Puttick, fondatrice dell’ONG Reclaim The Sea, arrestata nei giorni scorsi durante una protesta

      Fanno discutere in UK, e non solo, le “prigioni galleggianti” volute fortemente dal primo ministro britannico Rishi Sunak e il ministro dell’Interno Suella Braverman. Una misura per risparmiare sul costo della prima accoglienza che ora prevede la sistemazione in albergo dei richiedenti asilo.

      “Bibby Stockholm” è il nome della chiatta marittima che per i prossimi 18 mesi sarà utilizzata dal governo britannico per “ospitare” fino a 506 richiedenti asilo uomini, tra i 18 e i 56 anni, in attesa che si concluda l’iter della domanda di accoglienza nel Paese.

      Abbiamo parlato del nuovo piano del governo britannico e della campagna “No floating prisons” in questa intervista a Tigs Louis-Puttick, fondatrice dell’ONG Reclaim The Sea. L’attivista il 18 luglio scorso è stata arrestata «per essermi fermata in strada davanti al Ministero degli Interni con un cartello che diceva ‘Refugees Welcome’ e ‘No all’Immigration Bill, No Floating Prisons‘», ha dichiarato Tigs Louis-Puttick 1.

      Nello stesso giorno la “Bibby Stockholm” attraccava nel porto di Portland.

      Il nuovo piano del governo britannico prevede la prima accoglienza di 500 persone richiedenti asilo in una gigantesca chiatta-alloggio ancorata in un porto nel Canale della Manica, violando la libertà di movimento e il diritto alla privacy.

      Il 5 aprile 2023 l’Ufficio degli Interni britannico (Home Office) ha annunciato l’avvio di un piano per “accogliere” le persone migranti su una gigantesca chiatta-alloggio (la Bibby Stockhom), che giacerà all’interno del porto dell’isola di Portland, nel Canale della Manica. Secondo quanto dichiarato, la decisione è stata presa per “(…) ridurre l’insostenibile pressione sul sistema d’asilo britannico e ridurre l’onere economico che pesa sui contribuenti, causato dall’aumento significativo degli attraversamenti del Canale della Manica” 2. Da quanto emerge dalle dichiarazioni ufficiali dell’Home Office, la Bibby Stockholm diventerà operativa da luglio per un periodo iniziale di 18 mesi, e ospiterà fino a 500 richiedenti asilo uomini, tra i 18 e i 65 anni. La chiatta giacerà in un’area cosiddetta “protetta” del porto, da dove sarà possibile uscire e accedere al centro abitato solamente tramite un servizio autobus dedicato. A bordo, sarà presente un servizio di lavanderia, un catering per i pasti e degli spazi comuni. Sebbene sarà permesso scendere e accedere terra ferma, al momento, per gli ospiti, non è prevista l’erogazione di alcun servizio relativo all’accoglienza al di fuori del porto 3.

      È più che evidente come, l’Home Office miri alla limitazione della libertà di movimento delle persone migranti, riducendola ai minimi termini. Secondo quanto stimato da The Independent lo spazio che ogni persona avrà a disposizione sulla chiatta sarà di appena 15 metri quadri, “la misura di un posto auto”.

      Richard Drax, esponente del partito Conservatore britannico, l’ha definita una “quasi-prigione”, dove le persone saranno lasciate “sedute a girarsi i pollici”. Secondo James Wilson, direttore dell’organizzazione Detention Action (che fornisce supporto all’interno dei centri di detenzione per l’immigrazione illegale), non è che “(…) una chiatta angusta e simile ad una prigione” 4. E, a ragion del vero, è lo stesso Home Office, in diverse dichiarazioni ufficiali, a dichiarare esplicitamente la propria intenzione di “minimizzare l’impatto sulle comunità locali”, come dichiarato nel comunicato stampa del 5 aprile 2023, e ribadito, a più riprese nella Scheda Informativa disponibile sul proprio sito ufficiale.

      Di fronte all’ennesimo scenario di un sistema d’accoglienza sempre più restrittivo e non curante dei diritti delle persone richiedenti asilo, c’è chi non è rimasto indifferente e, anzi, ha dato il via ad una vera e propria lotta per i diritti delle persone migranti. In un’intervista per Melting Pot, parla Tigs Louis-Puttick, fondatrice dell’ONG Reclaim The Sea, che, fornendo lezioni di nuoto e surf alle persone migranti, ha l’obiettivo di accrescere la loro qualità di vita, e aiutarle trasformare il mare da un evento traumatico a uno spazio di libertà e guarigione. A maggio, Reclaimthesea ha redatto una lettera aperta a Suella Braverman, Segretaria di Stato per gli Affari Interni, domandando l’abbandono del progetto, firmata da 706 individui e 91 organizzazioni e collettivi, tra cui Medici Senza Frontiere UK e Sea-Watch. Lo scorso 21 maggio, insieme all’ONG Europe Must Act, Reclaimthesea ha guidato una protesta di fronte all’Home Office, e dato il via alla campagna “No floating prisons” (No alle prigioni galleggianti), che comprende una serie attività ed eventi di protesta e sensibilizzazione.


      «Abbiamo deciso di chiamare la campagna di protesta No floating prisons per l’approccio generale che ne rispecchia il carattere di questi luoghi. L’attuale processo di ristrutturazione della chiatta prevede l’aumento dei posti da 220 a 500, il che vorrà dire stipare le persone in pochissimo spazio, violando la loro privacy e il diritto allo spazio personale. Il piano è che, direttamente al loro arrivo, le persone saranno sistemate sulla chiatta, che pare non sarà nemmeno attraccata alla terraferma. Inoltre, Portland è un porto chiuso, recintato, non si può entrare ed uscire liberamente. Le autorità potrebbero arbitrariamente decidere di negare il permesso a lasciare il porto e, siccome è un porto privato, non abbiamo controllo sulle decisioni delle autorità, ne possiamo essere certi che daranno informazioni».

      Sui rischi delle prigioni galleggianti, Tigs dice: «La quasi totalità delle persone migranti presenti nel Regno Unito, hanno dovuto affrontare un attraversamento in mare, che sia dalla Libia all’Italia, dalla Turchia alla Grecia o il Canale della Manica. Molti di loro, hanno vissuto qualche tipo di trauma legato al mare. Per ciò, l’idea di farli stare ancora in una barca equivale letteralmente a relegarli nel reale, fisico luogo del trauma. Inoltre, solo il 25% degli uomini e il 18% delle donne provenienti dall’Africa Orientale (area di provenienza di molti dei richiedenti asilo nel Regno Unito) sa nuotare. Dunque, se per qualsiasi motivo qualcuno dovesse cadere in acqua dalla barca o dal molo, rischierebbe seriamente la morte, anche per via delle temperature gelide. Infine, molti hanno vissuto momenti di prigionia nei loro paesi d’origine o nei paesi transito. Arrivano qui e ciò che li aspetta è praticamente un’altra prigione».

      La preoccupazione delle prigioni galleggianti è anche legata all’accordo tra Regno Unito e Rwanda, che prevede la ricollocazione permanente dei richiedenti asilo arrivati irregolarmente nel Regno Unito al Rwanda, affinché la loro domanda d’asilo venga esaminata lì 5. «E’ sostanzialmente una sala d’attesa per chi sarà portato in Rwanda, che non è un paese sicuro, poiché ci sono già tantissimi rifugiati e poche risorse. Come si può pensare di portare qualcuno, che per esempio viene dall’Afghanistan, in Rwanda? Cosa faranno lì? Tutto ciò è solo un’esternalizzazione in stile coloniale delle responsabilità del Regno Unito verso il diritto all’ asilo. Ci preoccupa davvero il fatto che queste persone, possano essere spinte al suicidio, perché capiranno che stanno aspettando solo di essere deportate».

      Infine, secondo Tigs «ciò che sta facendo il Regno Unito fa parte di una tendenza più ampia che sta nascendo in Europa, copiata da Grecia e Italia, quando tenevano le persone in quarantena su una nave durante la pandemia. Nel 2021 ho preso parte ad una missione di soccorso con Sea Watch, siamo arrivati al porto di Trapani con 200 persone a bordo, dopo 12 giorni di navigazione, e un’enorme nave ci stava aspettando, per trasferire le persone dalla nostra imbarcazione. Le persone non volevano andare. Volevano scendere a terra. Avevano paura di cosa avrebbero trovato, di restare in acqua, di sentirsi male».

      In conclusione, sebbene sia la prima volta che il Regno Unito decida di adottare un sistema del genere, tenere le persone migranti il più possibile segregate rispetto alla popolazione locale, riducendo il loro spazio vitale al minimo, operare a risparmio sull’accoglienza ed esternalizzare le frontiere non rappresenta alcuna novità. Al contrario, è solo l’ennesimo triste passo verso una tendenza consolidata, dei democraticissimi stati europei, di lavarsi le mani dal dovere di salvare vite umane, accogliere, e rispettare il diritto all’asilo.

      E’ possibile seguire la campagna e donare per sostenere la campagna contro le prigioni galleggianti e avviare un’azione legale contro lo stato britannico a questo link: https://tr.ee/74EHZPD4rz .


    • ‘Cabins slightly larger than a prison cell’: life aboard the UK’s barge for asylum seekers

      Home Office tour of asylum seeker Bibby Stockholm barge emphasises no-frills features including TVs that don’t work

      Each two-person cabin in the Bibby Stockholm barge, which is set to start accommodating asylum seekers imminently, has a small flat-screen television screwed to the wall opposite the bunk beds. Residents will not, however, be able to watch them because they have not been wired to anything.

      The timeline for the arrival of the first group of 50 asylum seekers has slipped from next week to “the coming weeks”, with the Home Office aiming to increase the number of occupants (or “service users”, as barge staff term them) to 500 by the autumn.

      Organising tours for journalists on Friday of the 222-cabin barge moored in Portland Port, Dorset, presented government officials with a PR conundrum.

      To underline that reliance on expensive hotel accommodation was being reduced, conditions needed to be shown to be less luxurious than hotels but not so austere that the barge could be classified as a floating prison.

      Officials have refused to provide any detail about the figures behind their assertion that the barge accommodation will be considerably cheaper than hotel rooms.

      When the facility finally opens, arrivals will make their way on to the barge via a gangplank, and through airport-style security. In line with the Home Office’s prevailing dislike of friendly murals and pictures, asylum seekers will be greeted by plain, undecorated walls, though a simple laminated A4 sheet stating “welcome” has been stuck on the wall of the reception room.

      Windowless corridors, narrow enough to trail your fingers along both walls as you walk through them, circle the perimeter of the barge, with about 50 rooms on the long edges. Empty of inhabitants, the very confined space feels clean and cool, with an atmosphere vaguely reminiscent of a faded cross-Channel ferry.

      Single-person cabins have been refitted with bunk beds to double the potential capacity of the vessel. Each cabin is slightly larger in size than a prison cell, a bit smaller than the most basic university accommodation, and is fitted with a shower and toilet, a cupboard, mirror, desk and (staff are keen to point this out as a positive feature) a window.

      There was a subtle difference in approach taken by the Home Office employees giving tours to journalists and the representatives of the firm subcontracted to manage the barge.

      Government officials were keen to emphasise the barge’s low-cost appeal, but staff working for the Miami-based Landry & Kling, which has been subcontracted by the Australian firm Corporate Travel Management (CTM) to run the vessel on behalf of the Home Office, wanted to highlight the “dignified” treatment that would be provided: a 24-hour snack bar, planned visits to local allotments, proposed walks and cycle trips for residents.

      Joyce Landry, the firm’s cofounder, valiantly described the Bibby Stockholm in an interview earlier this week with the Herald as “actually quite lovely”.

      In the centre of the barge there are two smallish outdoor areas where nets are soon to be installed to allow people to play volleyball or netball and possibly a very contracted form of football. There is a small gym with two running machines, and an education room with just eight seats.

      “The thing that puts this vessel above many others is that every room has a window. You won’t feel claustrophobic. The windows open, unlike in some hotels. There’s enough public space to have a sense of freedom and openness,” said a Landry & Kling staff member.

      The windows offer views of high metal fencing and naval works units. Whether or not residents, single men aged 18-65, who will be held here for up to nine months, will agree that there is a sense of freedom and openness is a moot point. Security staff are being trained to manage conflict on board.

      In the street by the port’s entrance local protesters have been displaying their anger about the barge all week, with some furious at the arrival of large numbers of asylum seekers so close to the small tourist town, and others protesting that asylum seekers should not be held on barges at all.

      Landry has spent the past three nights sleeping on the barge to experience conditions. A windy night prompted staff to request extra tethering to fix the barge to the shore.

      Landry & Kling staff said the Home Office had requested that the TVs (previously used by construction workers recently accommodated on the barge) should not be wired up.

      The Home Office staff said they wanted “to promote socialisation” by forcing people out of their rooms to watch television together in the two communal TV rooms.

      But the presence of non-functioning TVs may also signal a determination by the Home Office to show that its latest solution for housing asylum seekers is merely “basic and functional” and will offer no frills to residents.

      Before it housed oil and construction workers, the Bibby Stockholm was used in the 2000s by the Netherlands to house asylum seekers. An Amnesty report from 2008 documented the psychological trauma experienced by residents.

      The rare Home Office tour of facilities was designed to showcase progress away from housing 51,000 asylum seekers in hotels at a cost of £6m a day to a cheaper alternative.

      However, plans have only been laid out for alternative accommodation for 3,000 people who they now hope will be moved to new, ex-military facilities and the barge by the autumn.


    • ‘No timeframe’ on delayed opening of Bibby Stockholm asylum barge

      Transport minister says barge in Portland going through final checks amid row over safety concerns

      A UK government minister has said he “cannot put a timeframe” on when the Home Office will open a controversial giant barge meant to house asylum seekers, which has been further delayed for checks.

      The initial plan had been to move people on to the Bibby Stockholm in Portland, Dorset, from this week, with numbers due to rise over the coming months until the vessel held about 500 men.

      Asked on Sky News when the barge would be available, the transport minister Richard Holden said: “It’s going through its final checks at the moment. It’s right that … whatever accommodation we provide is safe and secure as well. I can’t put a timeframe on it.”

      Asked if safety concerns were delaying the opening, he said: “It’s going through final checks at the moment. With anything you would want them to be properly checked out.”

      The Guardian reported on Monday that the first asylum seekers were due to be moved onboard the vessel on Wednesday but that seems to have been delayed further with the minister now unwilling to put a timeframe on the move.

      Asked if it would be delayed as long as the Rwanda policy had taken to implement, Holden added: “I can’t comment on the ongoing process of checks and things that have to take place but it is my understanding (it is) in its final checks.”

      Fears had been expressed that the barge could become a “floating Grenfell” and endanger the lives of vulnerable people who have fled hardship and war as it has not received the relevant safety signoff.

      About 40 claimants staying in other Home Office accommodation had received transfer letters saying they would be moved to the 222-cabin vessel in Dorset, Whitehall sources said.

      More than 50 national organisations and campaigners, including the Refugee Council, Asylum Matters and Refugee Action, have called the government’s plan “cruel and inhumane”. They said the vessel was “entirely inappropriate” and would house traumatised migrants in “detention-like conditions”.

      People are meanwhile expected to be moved this week on to another site that has become a focus for protest, the disused RAF base in Wethersfield, Essex.

      Local people who attended an event convened by the Home Office in the village complained on Monday night of coming away even more frustrated because of what they said was a lack of answers.

      “It was actually embarrassing. They didn’t pass a microphone around and it seemed to be really badly organised so people just ended up shouting to be heard,” said Michelle Chapman, of the Fields Association, a residents group involved in a campaign against the centre.

      “It ended up being quite heated and people just came away feeling frustrated. If there was one answer it was a pledge that they would not bring in any more than 50 people in one go, but there is still confusion here and genuine anxiety.”

      The meeting, held in the village hall, was addressed by senior police officers as well as Home Office officials. Local council officials were also present at the meeting, where Chapman said there was standing room only.

      A Home Office spokesperson said that delivering accommodation on surplus military sites and vessels would provide cheaper and more suitable accommodation for those arriving in the UK in small boats.

      They added: “The first asylum seekers have now been accommodated at Wethersfield and we are working with stakeholders on a carefully structured plan to increase the number staying there in a phased approach.”


    • Transfer of asylum seekers to ‘floating coffin’ Bibby Stockholm postponed

      Nicola David of campaign group One Life to Live documents the reasons why Bibby Stockholm is being recognised as a potential death trap

      With the first asylum seekers due to step aboard Bibby Stockholm this week, the controversy surrounding the Home Office’s decision to contain people on the barge has further escalated. Serious safety questions are being raised about the barge’s setting, a berth at the Langham Industries-run Portland Port. As a direct consequence, the initial transfer of 40 vulnerable adults to Bibby Stockholm has been postponed. I calculate that delays to date have already cost the taxpayer over £3mn.

      This is the first time that asylum seekers are to be contained on a barge in the UK, and the scheme is already mired in misery. There were significant delays in dry dock, where rotten sections of the hull needed replacing. And my report found that keeping people on the barge won’t cost less than in hotels, which is the crux of the Home Office’s strategy.

      Now, I have found that the 47-year-old vessel has not yet passed fire safety checks, and there are grave concerns over serious and unresolved (and potentially unresolvable) safety and fire risks. There also appears to be confusion over which safety regulations will apply, given that the site straddles the sea and land and the engine-less vessel is effectively a hotel.

      Clear evidence is emerging that the decision to transfer vulnerable adults onto Bibby Stockholm was premature at best – and potentially negligent at worst. And politically, if safety concerns require the Home Office to significantly reduce the number of people on board, the cost per head would be a humiliating blow to the prime minister and home secretary, who are counting on large-scale containment sites such as this to put an end to the daily asylum seeker hotel bill.
      Bibby Stockholm: a disaster waiting to happen

      Bibby Stockholm was designed to hold 222 people in single cabins, but was recently reconfigured to hold 506 asylum seekers in multiple-occupancy rooms along with 40 resident staff. A further 20 staff will live off the barge; with some of these on duty, around 550 people could be on board at any time.

      This is 248% of the intended capacity – and more than the previous maximum of 472 asylum seekers held when the same vessel was used as an immigration detention centre in Rotterdam in 2005. I am also left wondering whether the barge’s insurers can have extended its cover to this permit this level of overcrowding, and whether they would refuse public liability claims for injury, death or damage from asylum seekers, staff or the port.

      Asylum seekers sharing small cabins will have “less living space than an average parking bay”, according to the Independent. The mayor of Portland, Carralyn Parkes, measured the cabins and found that those for two people averaged “about 10ft by 12ft”. This could lead to serious problems with exiting rooms, using corridors, and accessing fire exits – and it is not clear whether there are sufficient fire exits for the new, higher population.

      The width of the corridors on board is not publicly known, but following a tour of the barge the Guardian reported that they are “narrow enough to trail your fingers along both walls as you walk”. Given the excess numbers of people, this could result in deadly delays, bottlenecks, and trampling of fallen people.

      Bibby Stockholm has three floors and all of the corridors are configured in the same way. There are no external windows in the corridors, and in an emergency – particularly if smoke and/or dim lighting affect visibility – it is easy to imagine that people might become disoriented or be unable to locate the bow, stern, port or starboard sides. This could cause delays and increase panic.

      Factors that would impede escape

      Asylum seekers may have prior injuries relating to war, conflict or persecution, or may sustain injuries as direct result of an incident on the barge. In 2005, when a fire broke out at a Dutch detention centre in which 11 people died and 15 were injured, one man “suffered injuries to his neck, shoulders and chest when he fell from his bed … in panic after realising that the detention centre was on fire”. Either type of injury could impede escape in a major incident. Additionally, those suffering from the mental trauma of war, conflict or persecution may be less able to process evacuation and safety instructions.

      Local councillors who visited the barge on 27 July reported that there were also no lifejackets on the vessel. The windows on board can be opened, but it is understood that this is restricted and would not allow a person to escape in an emergency. Barge operator Landry & Kling also told journalists that there would be no fire drills on Bibby Stockholm.

      Any emergency would be further compounded by the presence of asylum seekers whose first language is not English, or who speak no English, and may struggle to understand verbal evacuation and safety instructions, especially in a state of panic.
      Access for emergency vehicles

      I am very concerned about the capacity of the small quayside compound, which could not possibly hold 550 people in an evacuation. To prevent asylum seekers leaving the site or walking around on the port, this compound is surrounded by a fence at least 15 feet high and is accessible only via two sets of locked gates. In a crush, people simply couldn’t get out. There is significant potential for a Hillsborough-like crush situation.

      The only way for emergency vehicles to access the vessel would be via this compound. Locked gates could be a problem; even with access, how would first-responders and ambulances get through large numbers of panicked people crowding into the enclosed area?

      Physical condition of Bibby Stockholm

      Bibby Stockholm was built in 1976. According to a recent FT article:

      “The hull was rotten … in places the steel hull had decayed to the point where it was dangerously thin, necessitating the replacement of entire sections … Bibby Stockholm was late out of Falmouth for good reasons, mostly age-related.”

      The repair work done at Falmouth may have fixed the localised problems, and the barge may (as the FT found) have passed its Lloyd’s inspections, but the rot and repairs may have undermined the overall structural integrity of the hull.

      This could leave the barge open to being adversely affected by extreme weather, including being knocked against the berth, or by the weight of the additional residents plus the commensurate additional furniture and stores.
      Complexity around safety

      The barge scheme straddles both water and land, rendering safety inspections and certification more complex and potentially confusing. At least five agencies are involved:

      Lloyd’s Register of Shipping
      The Maritime and Coastguard Agency
      Dorset Council, which regulates the safety of the barge
      The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which regulates the surrounding quayside
      Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.

      Health and safety concerns

      In the week commencing 24 July, the HSE visited the berth at Portland Port. It found that “a lot” of work was still required to be done by both Bibby Marine and Landry & Kling, the US-based subcontractor for operations.

      Landry & Kling co-founder Joyce Landry has claimed in an interview in The Herald that “fears about the conditions on board have been caused by a lack of accurate information,” and that Bibby Stockholm is “actually quite lovely”.

      Mark Davies, head of communications and campaigns at the Refugee Council, expressed concern, saying:

      “Like most people in the UK, we believe people seeking asylum – the vast majority of whom are refugees fleeing unimaginable horrors – should be treated with decency, respect and humanity. These are values people in Britain hold dear.”

      A 27 July report in the Guardian, highlighting some of these safety concerns, includes a statement from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service which indicates that they are not yet satisfied with arrangements at the barge. They said they had “conducted visits to review fire safety arrangements on the Bibby Stockholm” and were continuing to liaise with other authorities “to ensure that appropriate fire safety measures under relevant legislation are in place”.
      Questions for the home secretary

      On 18 July it was reported that Chris Loder, MP for West Dorset, has said:

      “For months, I have been asking for sight of the safety risk assessments that should have been done to allow the Bibby Stockholm to be used in Portland Harbour … But visibility or assurances that adequate safety risk assessments have been completed have not been received.”

      Loder has written to the home secretary Suella Braverman and transport minister Baroness Vere to ask that they either stop the scheme or provide the necessary safety risk assessments confirming that the vessel can cope with double the weight that it was designed to bear.

      In May 2023, a caller named Mark told David Lammy MP on LBC Radio: “What they are effectively doing here is they are creating a potential Grenfell on water, a floating coffin … If there is a fire, people will die. In this case, people won’t die from the smoke or the flames, they will die from the stampede.”
      A failure both of competence and humanity

      The Home Office announced its intention to create a series of asylum seeker containment sites last year, but failed at the first hurdle with the cancelled plans for Linton-on-Ouse. The RAF Scampton and RAF Wethersfield sites now have permission to push ahead with a judicial review. Regardless, Scampton has been delayed until October, since the Home Office has failed for five months to survey the accommodation buildings and to engage tradespeople.

      At Wethersfield (the only large-scale site to have received any asylum seekers so far) there are cases of tuberculosis, scurvy and scabies. Legal action on human rights grounds is certain to follow at all sites, involving misery for individuals and a burden for the public purse.

      The Home Office appears to be embarrassingly unable to set up and manage these sites, or to show any humanity towards deeply vulnerable people. It certainly cannot deliver value for money. It is time for the Home Office to hire more asylum caseworkers to process the shameful backlog, and to put an end to large-scale containment – before we start to see them shifting into concentration-like detention centres.


    • Bibby Stockholm: First asylum seekers to board UK’s controversial barge despite safety warnings

      Fire Bridges Union (FBU) have brand Bibby Stockholm a ’potential deathtrap,’ while leaked health document warns of a potential diphtheria outbreak.

      The first 50 asylum seekers will board the controversial Bibby Stockholm barge “imminently," the British government told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme.

      The announcement comes just days after the Fire Bridges Union (FBU) raised concerns about overcrowding and fire exit access in a letter to the Home Secretary.

      The Bibby Stockholm, a 222-cabin barge moored off Portland port in Dorset, is anticipated to accommodate double its original capacity, with bunkbeds squeezed into single cabins.

      Narrow corridors, a lack of life jackets, and locked gates could create a “Hillsborough-type crush” and make it a “potential deathtrap,” the FBU warned.

      The evacuation point, a compound on the quayside, has been described by Dorset councillors as “completely inappropriate".

      “Firefighting operations on vessels such as the Bibby Stockholm provide significant challenges and require specialist training and safe systems of work. The diminished safety provisions only exacerbate our operational concerns,” Ben Selby, the assistant general Secretary of the FBU wrote.

      A leaked internal health document has also warned of the potential for “a significant outbreak” of diphtheria aboard the boat.

      It also highlighted the risk of the spread of a number of other infectious diseases including TB, Legionnaires’ disease, norovirus, salmonella, and scabies.

      The first group of asylum seekers was initially intended to arrive last Tuesday, but the date was pushed to this week amid health and safety concerns.

      The Home Office had already been forced to delay the first arrivals onto the vessel in order to carry out last-minute fire safety checks, after an intervention by health and safety officials.

      On Sunday, Shadow Immigration Minister Stephen Kinnock said the opposition Labour Party would have “no choice” but to continue housing asylum seekers on barges if it forms the next government.

      The news comes amid a raft of new anti-migration measures including a huge increase in fines for landlords and employers who house or employ undocumented migrants, and the revival of plans to fly asylum seekers to Ascension Island.
      Floating prisons

      The move to house asylum seekers on the barge in “detention-like conditions” has been condemned by over 50 national organisations and campaigners for being “cruel and inhumane".

      “(This) floating prison is very quickly going to turn into an overcrowded camp like Manston,” a member of Action Against Detention and Deportations (ADD) told MEE, referring to the short-term facility in Kent that was dangerously overcrowded.

      “There’s also a concern about how this might affect deportation,” they said.

      “We know that the Home Office cuts a lot of different admin procedures where they can, any route they can go through to detain people easily, they will do so… having that number of people in unsafe conditions… is a big concern.”

      It is the first time a large floating structure has been used as long-term housing for asylum seekers in the UK. In 2008, Algerian national Rachid Abdelsalam died from heart failure aboard the Bibby Stockholm when it was deployed in the Netherlands.

      Reportedly, guards were warned of his deteriorating condition and treated his heart irregularities with cough syrup.

      In 2022, also in the Netherlands, a major typhoid outbreak aboard an ageing cruise liner infected 52 asylum seekers and saw 20 staff members hospitalised after raw sewage contaminated the drinking water.
      No basic protections

      In the same letter, the FBU also expressed concerns about the government’s plans to exempt asylum seeker accommodation from requirements for a Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) license.

      In May this year, the Guardian reported the government plans to exempt asylum seeker accommodation from basic protections that govern HMOs in order to empty hotels of thousands of asylum seekers and transfer them to the private rented sector.

      The proposed changes would lift restrictions on electrical safety and minimum room sizes, and exempt landlords renting to multiple asylum seekers from requiring an HMO license for two years.

      “To strip away the very basic protections currently in place is appalling, allowing rogue landlords to house vulnerable men, women, and children in dangerous accommodation," a Refugee Council spokesperson told MEE.

      Care4Calais CEO Steve Smith told MEE that the plans treated asylum seekers as “second-class citizens.”

      “HMO licences exist for a reason,” Smith said.

      “Without them, people’s lives would be placed in the hands of unscrupulous landlords who are driven by money rather than providing safe and secure housing for tenants.”


    • First occupants of Bibby Stockholm barge taken onboard

      First asylum seekers to be housed on floating accommodation in Portland, Dorset, have arrived

      The first group of asylum seekers due to be housed on the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, Dorset, have been taken onboard.

      Buses were seen arriving at Portland on Monday morning as activists gathered at the entrance with “welcome” signs. About 50 asylum seekers are expected on Monday.

      The UK government wants to use barges and former military bases to accommodate some asylum seekers after the cost of housing them in hotels soared to £1.9bn pounds last year.

      Their arrival came amid confusion over the government’s immigration policies at the start of Rishi Sunak’s “small boats week”, during which the government is planning a series of eye-catching announcements.

      A Home Office minister indicated that up to 500 asylum seekers could be onboard by the end of the week. But No 10 appeared to suggest that the minister had misspoken. The same minister indicated that the Home Office was examining proposals to send asylum seekers to a UK territory in the south Atlantic. However, Whitehall sources said the proposal was not being pursued.

      The Bibby Stockholm was docked off the Dorset coast nearly three weeks ago and had been empty since due to health and safety concerns.

      The minister for safeguarding, Sarah Dines, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that while only a small number of asylum seekers were expected to be housed on the barge at first, it could increase rapidly to its capacity of about 500.

      Pressed on whether all of them could be onboard by the end of the week, Dines said: “Yes, quite possibly it will be 500. We are hoping.”

      She said the increase in the number of people on the ship would be gradual, despite concerns from the Fire Brigades Union that the vessel “is a deathtrap”.

      Later, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “Numbers will increase over time as you would expect for any new asylum facility. My understanding is that the Bibby Stockholm has an upward capacity of 500. We are looking to [reach] that number over time – I don’t think we are aiming to do it by the weekend.”

      Dines also claimed that ministers were “looking at everything” when asked about headlines in national newspapers claiming the government was looking again at sending asylum seekers to Ascension Island.

      Whitehall sources have indicated the plans are not being pursued. The prime minister’s official spokesperson would not comment on “speculation”.

      Ministers have repeatedly said the barge will be better value for British taxpayers and more manageable for local communities – a claim challenged by refugee charities. There has been local opposition to the plan because of concerns about the asylum seekers’ welfare, as well as the potential impact on local services.

      The refugee charity Care4Calais said it had stopped 20 people from being forced to board the barge so far, with referrals coming in from hotels by the hour.

      “None of the asylum seekers we are supporting have gone to the Bibby Stockholm today as legal representatives have had their transfers cancelled,” Steve Smith, the charity’s CEO, said.

      “Among our clients are people who are disabled, who have survived torture and modern slavery and who have had traumatic experiences at sea. To house any human being in a ‘quasi floating prison’ like the Bibby Stockholm is inhumane. To try and do so to this group of people is unbelievably cruel.”

      More than 15,000 asylum seekers have arrived in the UK so far this year after crossing the Channel, official figures show.

      On Friday and Saturday 339 people made the journey after an eight-day hiatus amid poor weather conditions at sea, taking the provisional total for 2023 to date to 15,071.

      Amnesty International UK condemned using the barge to house asylum seekers. Steve Valdez-Symonds, the charity’s refugee and migrant rights director, said: “It seems there’s nothing this government won’t do to make people seeking asylum feel unwelcome and unsafe in this country.

      “Reminiscent of the prison hulks from the Victorian era, the Bibby Stockholm is an utterly shameful way to house people who’ve fled terror, conflict and persecution. Housing people on a floating barge is likely to be re-traumatising and there should be major concerns about confining each person to living quarters the typical size of a car parking space.”

      The government hopes the use of the barge and former military bases to house asylum seekers will reduce the cost of hotel bills.


    • Bibby Stockholm: Asylum seekers describe life on barge

      Some of the first group of men to board the Bibby Stockholm have described their first 24 hours on the barge.

      One asylum seeker told the BBC it was like a prison and felt there wasn’t enough room to accommodate up to 500 people onboard, as the government plans.

      The Home Office says the barge will provide better value for the taxpayer as pressure on the asylum system from small boats arrivals continues to grow.

      Moored in Portland Port, Dorset, it is the first barge secured under the government’s plans to reduce the cost of asylum accommodation.

      Monday saw the first 15 asylum seekers board the Bibby Stockholm after a series of delays over safety concerns. It will house men aged 18 to 65 while they await the outcome of their asylum applications.

      An Afghan asylum seeker, whom the BBC is not identifying, said: "The sound of locks and security checks gives me the feeling of entering Alcatraz prison.

      “My roommate panicked in the middle of the night and felt like he was drowning. There are people among us who have been given heavy drugs for depression by the doctor here.”

      He said he had been given a small room, and the dining hall had capacity for fewer than 150 people.

      “Like a prison, it [the barge] has entrance and exit gates, and at some specific hours, we have to take a bus, and after driving a long distance, we go to a place where we can walk. We feel very bad,” the man added.

      There is 24/7 security in place on board the Bibby Stockholm and asylum seekers are issued with ID swipe cards and have to pass through airport-style security scans to get on and off.

      Asylum seekers are expected to take a shuttle bus to the port exit for security reasons. There is no curfew, but if they aren’t back there will be a “welfare call”.

      The Home Office has said it would support their welfare by providing basic healthcare, organised activities and recreation.

      The first group of men arrived on Monday. The Care4Calais charity said it was providing legal support to a further 20 asylum seekers who refused to move to Portland and are challenging the decision.

      On Tuesday, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Griffiths, said that moving to the barge was “not a choice” and if people choose not to comply “they will be taken outside of the asylum support system”.

      “Many of us entered Britain nine to 11 months ago, by airplane. Some of us applied for asylum at the airport. We did not come by boat,” the Afghan man said.

      "It has been two weeks since we received a letter in which they threatened that if we do not agree to go, our aid and NHS will be cut off.

      “There are people among us who take medicine. We accepted. We waited for two weeks and didn’t even have time to bring clean clothes.”

      Another man who boarded the vessel on Monday told the BBC he had arrived in the UK on an aircraft, had a wife still in Iran and had been in Britain for six months.

      The man - whom the BBC is not identifying - said he had eaten a “good” breakfast which included “eggs, cheese, jam and butter”.

      The government says it is spending £6m per day housing more than 50,000 migrants in hotels.

      A Home Office spokesperson said: “This marks a further step forward in the government’s work to bring forward alternative accommodation options as part of its pledge to reduce the use of expensive hotels and move to a more orderly, sustainable system which is more manageable for local communities.”

      “This is a tried-and-tested approach that mirrors that taken by our European neighbours, the Scottish government and offers better value for the British taxpayer,” they added.

      The Home Office says that by the autumn, they aim to house about 3,000 asylum seekers in places that aren’t hotels - such as the barge, and former military sites Wethersfield, in Essex, and Scampton, in Lincolnshire.


    • Moment Bibby Stockholm barge migrants are EVACUATED amid fears of Legionnaires’ disease - just DAYS after asylum seekers moved aboard in Dorset

      - All 39 asylum seekers onboard Bibby Stockholm barge were evacuated today
      - It comes after first 15 men boarded vessel in Portland, Dorset, just four days ago

      This the moment asylum seekers were driven away from the Bibby Stockholm after deadly legionella bacteria was found in the migrant barge’s water system.

      All 39 migrants onboard the controversial vessel were evacuated today - just four days after the first 15 men stepped onto it in Portland, Dorset - and are being moved to the same hotel, according to The Independent.

      A 40-seater coach, which had been shuttling migrants to and from Weymouth, was seen leaving today. Inside were two men sat in the middle who turned their faces away from onlookers at the port.

      Other footage of the Bibby Stockholm showed people arriving and leaving this afternoon - with ten people seen walking up a ramp and entering while others left.

      Routine tests of the barge’s water supply were reportedly carried out on July 25 but the results only came back when asylum seekers began boarding the barge on Monday, according to Sky News. The results showed levels of legionella bacteria ’which require further investigation’.

      Home Office sources say they were not made aware of the results until Wednesday, with further tests being carried out on Thursday.

      The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) advised the Government on Thursday evening to remove all six people that arrived on the Bibby Stockholm that day, but the Home Office decided to evacuate all 39 as a precaution.

      The harmful bacteria can cause a serious lung infection called Legionnaires’ disease, which can happen when breathing in tiny droplets of water containing the bacteria.

      Although nobody onboard had shown symptoms of the disease, officials insisted that all migrants be disembarked while further assessments are carried out.

      A letter from the Home Office that was leaked to the Guardian has reportedly informed asylum seekers that they will be tested for Legionnaires diseases if they do begin to show symptoms.

      The migrants will be taken to hotels which are said to be far from Weymouth, where few rooms are available during the height of the school summer holidays.

      One Syrian migrant onboard the barge told MailOnline this afternoon that he had not been given any information and had not been told to leave. He said: ’The place is very empty but no one has said anything to us. We will have to wait and see, but it is worrying.’

      But the migrants were later told they would be evacuated. It comes after health officials ordered six new arrivals to be removed yesterday.

      Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick is said to be holding meetings to discuss the barge, which the Government hoped would house up to 500 migrants. Local councillors have vowed not to see the boat back in use.

      With a capacity of up to 506, the Government is still hoping that use of the Bibby Stockholm, together with former military bases, will help reduce the £6million a day it is spending on hotel bills for asylum seekers.

      But opponents have claimed the barge is unsafe and a ’floating prison’, while lawyers of some migrants due to board this week have successfully argued to allow them to stay in hotels.

      It was only four days ago that the first 15 men were taken onboard the vessel.

      Support workers, who have spoken to some on board, claimed the asylum seekers were not being kept informed about what was happening.

      Heather Jones, of the Portland Friendship Group which is supporting the migrants, said: ’I have had texts and phone conversations from some of them and they are still on board, they haven’t been evacuated yet.

      ’Nobody has told them anything. They have had to ask me what the problem is. One of them was really concerned because he had just drunk a glass of water and he was asking me if he was going to be OK.

      ’I told him it is probably a precautionary measure but they shouldn’t be hearing it from me.

      ’They don’t know where they are being taken to. Hopefully it will be back to the hotels where they have come from.’

      There was a small group of campaigners from Stand Up To Racism at the port entrance holding placards saying ’Legionella death trap’ and ’human rights’.

      Lynne Hubbard, from the group, said: ’The Home Office have admitted they carried on admitting asylum seekers on the barge even though they found out about legionella on Monday.

      ’They would have been drinking the water and showering in it. That shows pretty clearly what the Government thinks of asylum seekers and how much they value their lives. They are heartless.

      ’An asylum seeker in there we are in contact with told us to get in touch with his family in case he dies of Legionella. That’s how frightened they are.’

      A local Portland councillor slammed the health crisis as a ’farce’ this afternoon.

      Paul Kimbdr, an independent councillor, said he thought the outbreak would mean the end of the barge being used to house asylum seekers.

      ’I just can’t see it being back in use. It’s all been a bit of a farce really,’ he told MailOnline.

      A Home Office spokesman told MailOnline today: ’The health and welfare of individuals on the vessel is our utmost priority.

      ’Environmental samples from the water system on the Bibby Stockholm have shown levels of legionella bacteria which require further investigation.

      ’Following these results, the Home Office has been working closely with UKHSA (the UK Health Security Agency) and following its advice in line with long established public health processes, and ensuring all protocol from Dorset Council’s Environmental Health team and Dorset NHS is adhered to.

      ’As a precautionary measure, all 39 asylum seekers who arrived on the vessel this week are being disembarked while further assessments are undertaken.

      ’No individuals on board have presented with symptoms of Legionnaires’, and asylum seekers are being provided with appropriate advice and support.

      ’The samples taken relate only to the water system on the vessel itself and therefore carry no direct risk indication for the wider community of Portland nor do they relate to fresh water entering the vessel. Legionnaires’ disease does not spread from person to person.’

      Mr Jenrick has previously described the barge as ’perfectly decent accommodation’, but asylum seekers who have spent four nights onboard have contrasting views.

      While one Afghan compared it to the former US maximum security prison Alcatraz, others have said it was ’cramped but comfortable’ with lots of facilities.

      MailOnline understands that the legionella bacteria is believed to have come from the pipes on the vessel – with tests of the water at point of entry coming back with no indication of legionella.

      Six asylum seekers arrived on the barge yesterday, and the UK Health Security Agency last night advised the Home Office to remove this group.

      Home Office sources have insisted that the removal of everyone was a ’further temporary precaution’ aimed to ’reduce the health risk as much as possible’.

      The Home Office is now awaiting the results of follow-up tests which have been carried out on the water system by Dorset Council environmental health officers.

      The UK Health Security Agency will then provide additional advice.

      Sources added that it was not unusual to identify legionella bacteria in warm water systems, which is why they are often subject to regular testing in buildings.

      A Dorset Council spokesman said: ’Dorset Council’s environmental health team and Public Health Dorset are advising the Home Office and its contractors, alongside the UK Health Security Agency and NHS Dorset, following notification of positive samples of Legionella bacteria in the water system on the Bibby Stockholm barge.

      ’No individuals have presented symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease, and there is no health risk to the wider community of Portland.’

      It is understood that the Home Office is managing the search for alternative accommodation for the asylum seekers.

      Dr Laurence Buckman, former chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP Committee, told GB News today: ’If you’re unlucky and your immunity isn’t really tip-top, there is a risk that you will get legionella pneumonia and die from it.

      ’It’s potentially treatable but of course you have to diagnose it first. It lives in water supplies. It lives in sink traps, so a U-bend of a sink will be a problem, and it lives in air conditioning units.

      ’That’s why we have what are called ’scrubbers’ in air conditioning units to wipe out the legionella before the air gets blown onto other people, and why hospitals that get legionella in their sinks have a really big problem. At worst, they have to take the sinks out and replace them and the pipework that goes with them.’

      Steve Smith, chief executive of the charity Care4Calais, said: ’We have always known our concerns over the health and safety of the barge are justified, and this latest mismanagement proves our point.

      ’The Bibby Stockholm is a visual illustration of this Government’s hostile environment against refugees, but it has also fast become a symbol for the shambolic incompetence which has broken Britain’s asylum system.

      ’The Government should now realise warehousing refugees in this manner is completely untenable, and should focus on the real job at hand - processing the asylum claims swiftly, so refugees may become contributing members of our communities as they so strongly wish.’

      Meanwhile Fire Brigades Union general secretary Ben Selby said the outbreak suggested it was ’only a matter of time before either lives are lost or there is serious harm to a detainee.’

      He said: ’The Fire Brigades Union warned the Home Secretary that forcibly holding migrants on this barge was a huge health and safety risk.

      ’This outbreak of Legionella suggests that it’s only a matter of time before either lives are lost or there is serious harm to a detainee.’

      And Alex Bailey, a spokesman for the No To The Barge campaign group, told MailOnline: ’This has become Fawlty Towers at sea.

      ’This was inevitable because of the poor advance planning and preparation, the rush and people in power with little knowledge and pushing the experts to break the rules.

      ’This is just another example of the incompetent way our Government has approached this scheme from start to finish. Robert Jenrick promised the country Bibbly Stockholm was safe. That is not the case.’

      Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: ’Across the country, most people want strong border security and a properly managed and controlled asylum system so the UK does its bit alongside other countries to help those who have fled persecution and conflict, while those who have no right to be here are swiftly returned.

      ’Under this Government, we have neither as gangs are undermining our border security and the asylum system is in chaos.’

      And Kolbassia Haoussou, director of survivor empowerment at Freedom from Torture, said: ’The presence of life-threatening bacteria onboard the Bibby Stockholm is just another shocking revelation that we’ve seen unfold over the past few weeks. This Government’s punitive policies and deliberate neglect of the asylum system is not just cruel, it’s dangerous.’

      Yesterday the Home Office denied the barge was a ’floating prison’ and insisted that those onboard would be ’free to come and go as they want’.

      Gardening in nearby allotments and hiking tours of the area are among the activities which could be offered to those onboard.

      Security measures include 18 guards trained to military standard who work around the clock.

      In total, about 60 staff including cooks and cleaners will be on board the barge run by Landry and Kling, a sub-contractor of Corporate Travel Management (CTM) which also managed vessels in Scotland housing Ukrainians.

      Spaghetti with meatballs, roast turkey, Irish stew and beef pie are on the sample menu to be served in the canteen by Dubai-headquartered offshore firm Connect Catering Services, alongside breakfast and a selection of snacks available 24 hours a day.

      The gym, equipped with treadmills and weights, is still awaiting delivery of rowing machines and exercise bikes. Volleyball, basketball, netball and football can all be played in one of two outside courtyards.

      Most of the 222 bedrooms have twin bunk beds, with cupboard space, a desk, en-suite bathroom, heating and windows which open. But there are also 20 larger rooms which would sleep four people, and two rooms housing six people.

      The bedrooms all have televisions which the operator was told to disconnect but were too costly to remove so can be used only as monitors.

      Instead, residents will be encouraged to socialise or watch programmes and films in one of four communal TV rooms, and can also learn English in a classroom and worship in a dedicated space. A small number of laptops are also available and there is Wi-Fi throughout the barge.

      #maladie #légionellose #maladie_du_légionnaire #évacuation

    • Asylum seekers say Bibby Stockholm conditions caused suicide attempt

      Thirty-nine people who were briefly onboard write to Suella Braverman describing their fear and despair

      Thirty-nine asylum seekers who were briefly accommodated on the Home Office’s controversial Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset have said conditions onboard were so bad that one was driven to attempt suicide.

      A three-page letter sent to the home secretary, Suella Braverman, also sets out the asylum seekers’ fear and despair at being trapped on the barge and appeals to her to help them in their search for safety and freedom in the UK.

      They describe the barge as “an unsafe, frightening and isolated place” but said that as law-abiding people they were fearful of not obeying Home Office instructions. The asylum seekers described the barge as “a place of exile” and said the conditions were “small rooms and a terrifying residence”.

      Some of the asylum seekers have told the Guardian they are too traumatised to return to the barge in Portland.

      According to the letter some people fell ill on the barge.

      The letter says: “Also in a tragic incident one of the asylum seekers attempted suicide but we acted promptly and prevented this unfortunate event. Considering the ongoing difficulties it’s not unexpected that we might face a repeat of such situations in the future.

      “Some friends said they even wished they had courage to commit suicide. Our personal belief is that many of these individuals might resort to this foolishness to escape problems in the future.”

      They said they were the last people to be informed about the legionella bacteria found on the barge and announced by the Home Office on 11 August.

      They said their brief stay on the barge had led to a deterioration in their mental health. “Currently we are staying in an old and abandoned hotel. The sense of isolation and loneliness has taken over us and psychological and emotional pressures have increased significantly.”

      The letter to Braverman concludes with a plea to consider their situation as a priority. “We are individuals who are tired of the challenges that have arisen and no longer have the strength to face them.”

      An Iranian asylum seeker among the 39 has vowed never to return there. He said many of the other men who spent a few days onboard felt the same way.

      “If I had had to stay even one more day on the barge I would have had suicidal thoughts. When I got on to the barge the smell and the stench of seawater was overwhelming,” he said.

      “I developed stomach pains and felt dizzy but I was too scared to refuse to get on. Being on the barge made us feel like criminals and second-class citizens.”

      He added that nobody from the Home Office properly explained the legionella situation to them. “I had to search on Google to find out what it is. Everyone who was on the barge are now all together in one hotel. A few people are coughing and everybody is afraid. When I was having a shower on the barge the water was burning my eyes.

      “Being on that barge will always be a horrific memory in my brain. It’s a completely unfit place. We’re all feeling very upset but are even more upset that the Home Office want to return us to this horror show.

      “I want to ask a question of the people who made the decision to put us on the barge. ‘Would you put a member of your family there even for one day?’ We came to the UK to escape persecution but are facing more persecution here.”

      In response to the letter the Home Office said: “We are following all protocol and advice from Dorset council’s environmental health team, UK Health Security Agency and Dorset NHS, who we continue to work closely with.

      “Further tests are being conducted and we intend to re-embark asylum seekers only when there is confirmation that the water system meets relevant safety standards. The safety of those onboard remains the priority.”
      Bibby Stockholm timeline

      Monday 7 August: The first group of asylum seekers, all men, are taken to the barge by the Home Office. Some lawyers successfully challenged their clients being put onboard. New arrivals said they were shocked by the high walls of the barge, which felt like a ‘floating prison’ and the overwhelming stench of seawater onboard.

      Tuesday 8 August : The reality of life onboard the barge starts to be understood by the men. “My feeling about this ship is negative,” said one. “Right now my strongest feeling is of being humiliated and captured. The government takes revenge on every useful brain and heart. What I mean by revenge is that the British government intends to cover up its political and economic failures by using asylum seekers as an excuse.”

      Thursday 10 August: By this time all the agencies involved with the barge were aware that tests had confirmed legionella onboard the barge on Monday. Dorset council said its officials informed barge contractors the same day they received the test results and that a meeting was held on Tuesday with officials including one from the Home Office. The men continued to shower and use water taps onboard, oblivious to any potential risks to their health.

      Friday 11 August: At 1.54pm the men started seeing messages on social media “that there is a disease problem on the barge and we will need to evacuate”. At about 2pm a text was received that the asylum seekers believed to be from staff onboard the barge telling them not to use the showers for two hours as the shower heads needed to be replaced. At 5pm, a copied text was received from the Home Office describing the bacteria found on the barge and informing the men that they would be leaving the barge at 7pm by bus.

      Saturday 12 August: Relocation to a “disused” hotel. The men begin to process the despair their experience on the barge had left them with. Some said previously they had put their trust in the Home Office to provide them with safety after fleeing danger in their home countries but their time on the barge has destroyed that. “All our hopes are gone. We think now the Home Office is not there to help us. It abandons us to uncertain destiny. The barge has sabotaged hope, trust. Morale among us is at zero.”


    • Home Office Faces Legal Challenge Against ‘Appalling’ Use of Bibby Stockholm Barge to House Refugees

      “Human beings do not belong in barges or camps. The correct way to house people is to house them in communities.”

      A Labour mayor has launched a legal challenge to Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s use of the Bibby Stockholm barge to accommodate around 500 male asylum-seekers at Portland Port in Dorset, without obtaining planning permission.

      Carralyn Parkes is a Portland Town Councillor and Mayor of Portland, bit is acting in a personal capacity as a local resident. Dorset Council and Portland Port Limited have backed the claim as “interested parties”, meaning that they will have the opportunity to make submissions, file evidence and participate in the case.

      It comes after a deadly legionella strain was found onboard the Bibby Stockholm. It was detected on the first day people boarded on 7 August, with officials evacuating all 39 people onboard that day, the Guardian reported.

      Parkes is asking the Court to declare that the Home Office’s use of the barge as asylum accommodation is capable of constituting ‘development’ under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, and therefore that it may amount to a breach of planning control and possible enforcement action by Dorset Council.

      Her claim argues that the Home Office is attempting the ‘technical wheeze’ of using a boat as asylum accommodation in order to circumvent normal planning rules, which would apply if the barge was instead installed on land.

      As a result, local residents’ ability to raise objections to the barge and its use in Portland, via their local authority, is “severely hampered”, her legal team says. It also places the barge outside the reach of “important” legal protections such as limits on overcrowding.

      Carralyn Parkes told Byline Times: “In the 21st century, it’s appalling to think that we’ve even considered housing the most vulnerable people in the world on a barge. The accommodation is wholly unsuitable.

      “If the government had put this through a planning procedure, I’m convinced it would have been denied, as the port is a closed area.”

      She added that infrastructure in Portland is “stretched to breaking point” while the barge was originally produced for 220 people. “Now they’re talking about 500 people. It’s completely overcrowded and there’s no fire safety certificate,” Parkes said.

      “It’s just terrible to think that our country would do something like this to vulnerable people, and to ride roughshod over communities…Human beings do not belong in barges or camps. The correct way to house people is to house them in communities.”

      “Portland is not averse to housing asylum seekers. It’s the actual conditions of housing asylum seekers on the barge that is appalling.”

      Asked if she thought the legal challenge stood a strong chance, she said: “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think it’s a chance of being successful. I’m a private individual taking this on board. It’s a huge and daunting task to take on the whole mechanism of the state, the Home Secretary and the Home Office.”

      While she is launching the legal challenge as a private individual rather than a Labour mayor, she added she had support from Labour colleagues locally.

      Parkes also argues that the Home Office has not complied with its environmental impact assessment duties. An appraisal branded “inadequate” by campaigners was only conducted after asylum seekers had been moved onto the barge, and several months after the Home Office had declared its intention of using the barge for that purpose.

      The claim also argues that the Home Office has not complied with its Public Sector Equality Duty under the Equality Act 2010, which includes prohibition on discrimination on the basis of race, and a duty to foster good relations between those who share a protected characteristic (such as race), and those who do not.

      Parkes and her team argue that the Equality Impact Assessment, conducted only days before the barge came into use, is “woefully inadequate” as it fails to consider the impact of the barge’s operation in radicalising far-right extremism, or the equality impact of segregating rather than integrating asylum seekers into communities.

      A spokesperson for Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors said: “Our client is taking a brave stand against the Home Office’s attempts to circumvent important planning rules and protections to use the Bibby Stockholm barge to accommodate vulnerable asylum seekers.

      “She is asking the Court to rule that proper procedures should be followed and that local people and authorities should be given the opportunity to have their say.”

      Carralyn Parkes is represented by Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors. She is continuing to crowdfund to cover her legal costs and to cover the risk that costs are awarded against her. So far Parkes has raised more than £20,000.

      The next step is for the defendant, the Home Office, and the Interested Parties (Dorset Council and Portland Port Limited) to respond. If they wish to do so, the deadline is 4 October. After that the Court will make a decision on whether Parkes has permission for her judicial review.


  • Detained below deck

    How asylum seekers are held in secret prisons on commercial ships to facilitate illegal pushbacks from Italy to Greece.

    As holidaymakers sip on cold beer and cocktails on the deck of a passenger ferry, a buzz of excitement in the air, a very different situation is playing out below deck. In the bowels of this vessel there are people, including children, chained and locked up in dark places against their will.

    This is Europe’s lesser known pushback practice, where secret prisons on private ships are used to illegally return asylum seekers back to where they came from.

    The systematic denial of the right to seek asylum at the EU’s land borders has been well-documented in recent years. Last year, Lighthouse Reports and partners revealed the existence of “black sites” – clandestine places of detention – where refugees and migrants are denied the right to seek asylum and illegally imprisoned prior to being forced back.

    What has received less attention is the unlawful denial of the opportunity to claim asylum at borders within the EU, and the brutal pushbacks that take place between member states – namely from Italy to Greece – at sea.

    We’ve found that asylum seekers, including children, are being detained in unofficial jails – in the form of metal boxes and dark rooms – for sometimes more than a day at a time in the bowels of passenger ships headed from Italy to Greece, as part of illegal pushbacks by the Italian authorities.

    In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Italy had unlawfully returned asylum seekers to Greece in this way, denying them the opportunity to lodge a claim for protection. Eight years on, despite the Italian authorities having repeatedly claimed this practice has not stopped, we’ve found that it continues in full force.

    Lighthouse Reports, in collaboration with SRF, ARD Monitor, Al Jazeera, Il Domani and Solomon, has obtained photographs, video footage and testimony revealing that people who risk their lives stowing away on ferries bound for the Italian Adriatic ports of Venice, Ancona, Bari and Brindisi in the hope of claiming asylum are being denied the opportunity to do so.

    Instead, they are detained at the port before being locked up on the vessels they arrived on and sent back to Greece.

    In the first visual evidence of its kind, obtained during numerous reporting trips between Italy and Greece on commercial ships owned by Greek ferry giant Attica Group, we captured images of the sites that are used to detain asylum seekers on these vessels, sometimes handcuffed to metal shelves, as they are illegally deported.

    We found that on one ferry, named the Asterion II, people are locked in a former bathroom with broken showers and toilets, along with two mattresses. Names and dates of detainees are scribbled on the walls in different languages. We have visual evidence of this room, obtained with a small camera through a keyhole, which matches descriptions given by asylum seekers.

    On another commercial ship, named Superfast I, people are held in a metal box with a caged roof in the garage room on one of the lower decks. It gets extremely hot here during the summer months. We visited the room and captured footage and stills. It matches the descriptions from asylum seekers. There is only a piece of cardboard on the floor. People appear to have tried to write words in the dust on the metal wall.

    According to an Afghan asylum seeker who says he was held in this place: “It is a room the length of 2 metres and the width of 1.2 metres. It’s a small room […] You have only a small bottle of water and no food at all […] We had to stay in that small room inside the ship and accept the difficulties.”

    On a third ferry, the Superfast II, asylum seekers are kept in a room where luggage is collected. One Afghan man managed to take a selfie while he was handcuffed to metal pipes. We went to the same spot and took footage, which matches the surroundings in the selfie image.

    Among those detained are children. We have verified three cases where under-18s have been returned via ferry from Italy to Greece in this way. One 17-year-old Afghan named Baloosh told us: “They sent me back to Greece by boat, illegally. They didn’t ask me at all about my asylum claim or anything else.”

    As well as testimony and visual evidence, we got confirmation from a number of crew members that these places were being used to detain asylum seekers being returned to Greece. They referred to the sites as “prisons”. Legal experts and NGOs further corroborated the findings, saying they have heard large numbers of reports of these practices taking place in recent years.

    Under a bilateral “readmissions” agreement between the Italian and the Greek government – which has been in place since 1999 despite not having been ratified by the Italian parliament – Italy is able to return undocumented migrants who have arrived from Greece back to the country. However, this cannot be applied to those seeking asylum.

    But we found that asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq have been subject to this treatment in the last 12 months. Data provided by the Greek authorities shows that hundreds have been affected in the last two years, with 157 people returned from Italy to Greece in 2021, and 74 in 2022 – although experts believe that not all cases are documented.

    Since the ECHR judgement in 2014, Italy has repeatedly claimed that this practice has stopped, and has pushed for official monitoring of its border processes at the port – which were put in place following the ECHR judgement – to be stopped on the basis that the violations are no longer occurring.

    Italian immigration lawyer Erminia Rizzi said these forced returns take place “frequently” and see asylum seekers, including minors, “prevented from accessing the territory, in violation of all the rules and with informal procedures”.

    Wenzel Michalski, director of Human Rights Watch Germany, raised the question of EU complicity, saying the findings showed how “Europe has allowed itself to tolerate such circumstances”.


    #push-backs #emprisonnement #ferry #ferries #bateaux_de_croisière #Italie #Grèce #mer_Adriatique #Adriatique #mer_Méditerranée #Méditerranée #asile #migrations #réfugiés #détention #mer #bateau #réadmission #Superfast


    Ajouté à la métaliste sur les liens entre migrations et #tourisme :
    ajouté à la métaliste #migrations et #tourisme :
    et plus précisément ici :

    • While tourists on ferries are sipping from their sundowners, people - including children - are chained & locked up below decks in dark places

      Refugees from Afghanistan, Syria & Iraq risk their lives stowing away on ferries bound for the Italian ports in the hope of claiming asylum

      Instead, when caught by authorities, they are locked up on ferries & sent back to Greece without any procedure, in breach of interntnl law

      Last month, @LHreports & partners revealed the existence of “black sites” – clandestine places of detention – where refugees are denied the right to seek asylum & illegally imprisoned on EU land borders before being forced back

      Now, we have captured images of unofficial “prisons” that are used to detain asylum seekers on 3 passenger ships travelling Greece and Italy, sometimes handcuffed to metal shelves, as they are illegally deported

      @saracreta interviewed a refugee from Afghanistan who managed to take a selfie while being handcuffed to metal shelves on the @SuperfastF(ast) II

      The vessel runs between the Italian port of Bari & the Greek ports of Igoumenitsa & Patras - a journey that takes around 12 hours

      “I couldn’t lie down because of the handcuffs,” the man, named Abdulmanan, said

      “Once they brought me something to eat & drink. They took off my handcuffs. After that, they chained me again.”

      He said he was put there after being denied the right to apply for asylum in Italy

      On the Superfast I ferry, refugees are locked up in a metal box with just a piece of cardboard & sheet

      Some left messages on the walls, while others appear to have tried to escape by climbing the walls

      The secret detention sites on the Superfast ferries are located next to where lorries are parked - an area that is considered unsafe for passengers to be during the journey

      Yet asylum seekers are locked up there for the duration of the trip

      A small room with a broken toilet & ceiling on the 7th floor of the Asterion II has been made into a makeshift prison

      Refugees have scribbled their names & dates of detention on the wall while tourists enjoyed hot meals just metres away

      Italy has justified these “readmissions” under a bilateral agreement with Greece - an agreement that was never ratified by the Italian parliament

      The return of asylum seekers under this agreement was ruled unlawful by @ECHR_CEDH in 2014


      Italy has since repeatedly claimed that this practice has stopped, & has pushed for official monitoring of its border processes at the port - which were put in place following the ECHR judgement - to be stopped on the basis that the violations are no longer occurring

      But @LHreports @AJEnglish @ARD_Presse
      #Monitor @srfnews @DomaniGiornale @we_are_solomon can reveal that the practices are still ongoing

      More than a dozen people from Afghanistan, Syria & Iraq told us they have been subject to this treatment in the last 12 months

      Among them are children. We have verified 3 cases where under-18 have been returned via ferry from Italy to Greece in this way

      One 16-yo Afghan named Baloosh said: “They sent me back to Greece by boat, illegally. They didn’t ask me at all about my asylum claim or anything else."

      Personnel on board of the ferries, all owned by the Greek company Attica, confirmed to us that they are detaining asylum seekers & directed us to the locations where people are being detained

      A number of crew members referred to the detention places as “prisons”

      Hundreds of these illegal returns have taken place in the last 2 years

      The Greek authorities confirmed that 157 people were returned from Italy to Greece in 2021, and 74 in 2022 - although experts believe that not all cases are documented

      Italy can assess whether an asylum seeker can be returned to Greece under the Dublin Regulation, which enables returns of people who have already lodged a claim in another EU state

      But this process usually takes at least 1 month, during which they cannot remove the individual


    • Angekettet auf der Fähre

      Wie Italien illegal Flüchtlinge abschiebt

      Fährschiffe transportieren tausende Touristen zwischen Italien und Griechenland. Unter Deck passiert gleichzeitig Unmenschliches: Flüchtlinge werden angekettet und in Schächten oder defekten Toiletten eingesperrt.

      SRF Investigativ: «Haben Sie ein Gefängnis auf dem Schiff?»

      Fährschiff-Mitarbeiter: «Ja»

      «Ist das hier, wo die Passagiere sind?»

      «Nein, es ist in der Garage vier, dort ist das Gefängnis.»

      Italien schiebt die Flüchtlinge illegal ab, das heisst ohne die nötigen Abklärungen. Pushback nennt sich das. Die italienischen Behörden verstossen dabei gegen Verfahrensregeln und es wird teilweise auch Gewalt angewandt.

      Das zeigt eine Recherche, die SRF in Kooperation mit Lighthouse Reports, Al Jazeera,ARD Monitor und Domani durchgeführt hat. Das Rechercheteam hat mit gut einem Dutzend Pushback-Opfern gesprochen, mit Schiffsmitarbeitenden, Grenzpolizistinnen und Experten. Erstmals gibt es auch Bilder und Videos von geheimen Gefängnissen auf Passagierfähren im Adriatischen Meer.

      Die Illustrationen in diesem Artikel sind anhand zahlreicher Schilderungen von Flüchtlingen nachgezeichnet.


  • La planète crame, ils bronzent

    Il se pourrait bien que l’été 2022 ait marqué un tournant : celui d’une prise de conscience plus généralisée du lien entre capitalisme et réchauffement climatique. La cause en est que les conséquences du dérèglement deviennent extrêmement perceptibles, ses effets plus directs et massifs. La dégradation concrète de nos modes de vie, qui annonce des […]

  • Autour des avions et de la #diffusion du #coronavirus, dans la conférence de #Sansonetti :

    –-> plutôt que la théorie du #climat (là où il fait chaud, pas de virus), c’est celle des connexions par #avion qui serait à privilégier pour la #propagation du #virus...

    La conférence :

    #géographie #ressources_pédagogiques #coronavirus
    Et comme dit ma collègue Sarah Mekdjian :

    j’ajoute à mon TD sur le #déterminisme_climatique

    #déterminisme_géographique #avions #transports #températures #Afrique #Asie #Europe #transport_aérien #température #cartographie #visualisation


    • Reçu d’une amie à qui j’ai envoyé le commentaire ci-dessus

      Avevo visto la cartina in gennaio : une crisi annunciata.

      Pensa te che Zurigo in febbraio ha chiuso i voli diretti con la Cina, Ginevra no (3 voli /settimana con Pechino). All’atterraggio ricevevano un foglio dell’ufsp con scritto: in CH non é obbligatorio portare la mascherina (gettatela uscendo dall’aereo). Poi nessun controllo (febbre, quarantena... niente ).

      Morale ? Confronta il numero di casi à GVA e ZH !

      La politica ginevrina Del non chiudere l’aeroporto a Ginevra é stata spiegata pubblicamente dal medico cantonale il 25 febbraio all’unige (conferenza disponibile su mediaserver dell’uni).

      Remarque : la conferenza era sul mezzo giorno e gli esperti facevano « blagues » perché « je vous rappelle qu’au jour d’aujourd’hui il n’y a aucun cas en Suisse »..... un’ ora dopo la stampa annunciava il primo caso in Ticino. Tu vuoi farmi credere che il medico cantonale non lo sapevo ????

      #Suisse #Zurich #aéroports #Genève

    • Coronavirus en Afrique : pourquoi la catastrophe annoncée n’a pas eu lieu ?

      Les experts annoncent depuis des mois une déferlante de l’épidémie de coronavirus en Afrique, où la pauvreté et le manque d’infrastructures de santé font craindre le pire. Pourtant, alors que le premier cas remonte au 14 février sur le continent, la vague n’est toujours pas arrivée. Comment expliquer cette relative préservation ?

      Depuis le premier cas de coronavirus sur le continent, le 14 février en Égypte, les experts nous prédisent un scénario effrayant. L’Afrique allait être rapidement submergée par la pandémie de Covid-19 avec à la clé un cataclysme sanitaire dans un continent pauvre au système de santé défaillant. L’Organisation mondiale de la Santé (OMS) appelle presque chaque jour le continent « à se préparer au pire ». Deux mois plus tard, le tsunami n’a toujours pas eu lieu, alors que les pays européens et les États-Unis sont violemment frappés.
      L’Afrique est le continent le moins touché par l’épidémie de coronavirus

      Avec 1.216 décès et 26.058 cas recensés au 22 avril, l’Afrique est le continent le moins touché par l’épidémie de coronavirus. L’Algérie, est le pays qui déplore le plus grand nombre de décès (402) devant l’Égypte, le Maroc et l’Afrique du Sud. Par comparaison, la France et ses 66 millions d’habitants a dépassé la barre des 20.000 morts du Covid-19. Alors pourquoi l’Afrique avec ses 1,2 milliard d’habitants semble échapper à l’épidémie ?

      Évidemment, le faible nombre de tests et le manque de données faussent en partie le bilan, le nombre de cas étant sans doute largement sous-estimé. Le chef du Centre africain de contrôle et de prévention des maladies, John Nkengasong, concède à l’AFP que, faute de tests, les statistiques ne sont pas parfaites. Mais il écarte l’idée que de nombreux cas passent sous les radars. « Les hôpitaux seraient envahis de malades, ce qui n’est pas le cas », confirme le médecin. D’autres facteurs peuvent en revanche apporter quelques pistes d’explication.

      Une longueur d’avance

      L’épidémie a gagné l’Afrique quelques semaines après l’Europe, permettant à ses dirigeants d’adopter des mesures préventives très en amont. « Avant même la détection des premiers cas de coronavirus sur le sol rwandais, nous avons pris très tôt des mesures d’hygiène qui ont été appliquées sur presque toute l’étendue du territoire », corrobore le docteur Sabin Nsanzimana, directeur général du Rwanda Biomedical Centre, à RFI. L’Afrique du Sud, la Tunisie, le Maroc et l’Algérie ont imposé un confinement et des couvre-feux avant que l’épidémie n’ait eu le temps de se propager.
      Une faible densité de population

      Avec 43 habitants par kilomètre carré, contre 181 en Europe de l’Ouest ou 154 en Asie du Sud-Est, l’Afrique demeure un continent faiblement peuplé dans la plupart des régions. Les habitants sont généralement concentrés dans les capitales, qui ont été très tôt confinées. En Côte d’Ivoire, le grand Abidjan est ainsi officiellement isolé du reste du pays depuis le 30 mars. Idem au Lagos, où les habitants des deux mégalopoles, Abuja et Lagos, ont interdiction de quitter la ville. Cette faible densité limite considérablement les contacts et donc la transmission du virus.

      Moins de circulation des personnes

      Contrairement à la plupart des pays occidentaux, de nombreuses régions africaines restent très isolées et vivent en quasi-autarcie. Le virus circule donc très peu dans la population. L’Afrique est également beaucoup moins touristique que l’Europe ou les États-Unis. Sur les 50 aéroports les plus fréquentés au monde, un seul est africain (celui de Johannesburg). L’Afrique ne compte pas non plus de diaspora importante comme la Chine ou l’Inde, qui doivent faire face au retour de nombreux étudiants revenant de l’étranger. Peu de grands mouvements de population ont d’ailleurs été constatés en Afrique subsaharienne.
      Une pyramide des âges beaucoup plus jeune

      Environ 60 % de la population africaine est âgée de moins de 25 ans. Or, le coronavirus frappe plus particulièrement les personnes âgées : en France, 75 % des personnes décédées du Covid-19 ont plus de 75 ans. L’Italie du Nord, région la plus touchée au monde, est aussi caractérisée par une très forte population âgée. « En Afrique, il n’y a plus de vieux à tuer sur le continent » résume sarcastiquement l’écrivain ivoirien Gauz, dans une tribune sur le site de Jeune Afrique. L’Afrique présente aussi un très faible taux d’obésité, qui est un facteur de risque majeur de mortalité au Covid-19.

      Une immunité pré-existante ?

      Une étude préliminaire du NHS (National Health Service) et de King’s College montre une corrélation négative entre les pays affectés par la malaria et ceux touchés par le Covid-19, qu’elle explique par un possible effet protecteur des traitements prophylactiques pour la malaria comme la chloroquine contre le coronavirus. Or, 93 % des cas de malaria sont enregistrés en Afrique, selon l’OMS. D’après une autre étude, c’est la vaccination systématique du BCG déployée en Afrique qui pourrait expliquer l’immunisation de la population. Les pays sans politique de vaccination universelle du BCG comme l’Italie et les États-Unis sont à l’inverse les plus touchés par le Covid-19, notent les auteurs. Des corrélations qui n’apportent toutefois aucune preuve de cause à effet.
      Famine, criquets, effondrement de l’économie : ces autres menaces bien plus concrètes

      Malgré ces atouts, l’Afrique risque pourtant de faire les frais de l’épidémie de Covid-19. Conséquence de la fermeture des frontières, des mesures de confinement et de la hausse des prix des denrées alimentaires, « le nombre de personnes menacées de famine en Afrique de l’Ouest pourrait quasi tripler en trois mois », a ainsi alerté l’ONG Oxfam le 21 avril. Une invasion de criquets fait également des ravages en ce moment en Afrique de l’Est. En Éthiopie, 200.000 hectares de terres agricoles ont été dévorées et un million de personnes ont désormais besoin d’une aide alimentaire d’urgence. La pandémie de coronavirus a également mis à l’arrêt la plupart des campagnes de vaccination contre la polio, la rougeole ou la diphtérie. En Afrique, le coronavirus est loin d’être la priorité des habitants.

      #pyramide_des_âges #densité_de_population