Most of the asylum seekers so far housed on the government’s controversial barge are not small boat migrants and arrived in the UK legally. The Independent can reveal.
Ministers claimed the Bibby Stockholm and the use of military bases for accommodation would “deter” Channel crossings, but the majority of those chosen to board the ship so far have arrived by plane.
After discussions with charities and law firms working with more than 30 asylum seekers who have been ordered by the Home Office to board the barge, The Independent It was reported that only two arrived in a small boat.
All others used regular passenger planes to get to the UK. Some applied for asylum shortly after landing at the airport – so they did not enter the country illegally.
A former Conservative minister described the situation as “extraordinary,” adding: “The policy of reducing hotels isn’t working because more people are coming and they’re still using them.”
“Even though they have the barge and talked about tents and military bases and the rest, nothing has changed. People are still coming, so there’s no deterrent.”
It is understood that the vast majority of those who boarded the Bibby Stockholm, and those who successfully challenged their surrender notices with solicitors, flew into the UK legally.
“Many of us flew into the UK nine to 11 months ago,” said one Afghan asylum seeker BBC. “Some of us applied for asylum at the airport. We didn’t come by boat.”
An Iranian now living on the barge told itThe sun he had flown to the UK six months ago and the others on board were mainly from his country and Afghanistan. Both nationalities have very high asylum approval rates.
Interior Ministry guidelines state that people can be accommodated at the Bibby Stockholm for a maximum of nine months. This means anyone whose claim is not approved during this time will have to be returned to hotels or other government accommodation.
Inside the asylum barge Bibby Stockholm
Labor said the barge had become a “symbol of Tory incompetence”, while other opposition MPs accused the government of using “hearing speech” that did not reflect reality.
Shadow Immigration Secretary Stephen Kinnock said: “This latest revelation that the majority of the people who stayed on board the Bibby Stockholm arrived on a flight in the UK only proves that this was never the answer to the asylum residue chaos would be, and the fact that government ministers have touted it as such is frankly ridiculous.”
Mr Kinnock said the asylum system was “getting worse” as more boats arrived on Thursday and the number of crossings had risen to over 100,000 since 2018.
Alison Thewliss, the SNP’s home affairs spokeswoman, said the government should work to properly handle the asylum backlog, rather than seek placement in the event of “significant security concerns”.
“The number of people on the Bibby Stockholm arriving by plane shows that ‘Stop the Boats’ is more of a joke than a solution for the UK government,” she said The Independent.
“It is high time this government stopped the rhetoric and focused on protecting the vulnerable people we have a duty to protect.”
The Liberal Democrats accused the government of “headline chasing” to distract from the numbers of rising Channel crossings and asylum claims as it remains unable to deport anyone to Rwanda.
Home Affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “Once again, the reality of the situation is simply not reflected in the sound Home Office guidelines.
In April, shortly after Bibby Stockholm’s use as asylum accommodation was announced, Immigration Secretary Robert Jenrick claimed it would “deter” small boat crossings.
“We need to infuse the whole system with deterrents, and that includes our national approach to housing illegal migrants,” he told parliament.
“In the short term, that means moving to cheaper and more appropriate forms of accommodation, such as decommissioned military sites and ships.”
In recent weeks, several ministers have dismissed concerns about the safety and suitability of the Bibby Stockholm, saying that “illegal immigrants” should not be given a choice of accommodation.
After being forced to reverse transfer orders for at least 20 asylum seekers, which had been issued in violation of official guidelines, the Home Office sent out “threatening letters” urging selected people to board the barge or face the risk of being deported Deprivation of government housing.
Immigration Secretary Robert Jenrick claimed on Wednesday that a “significant” number of the asylum seekers who initially objected have since changed their minds and backed the move, but the Home Office declined to give figures.
Senior Tories have defended Conservative Party Deputy Leader Lee Anderson’s statement that asylum seekers who refuse to go on the barge should “damn go back to France”, even though many did not travel from here.
“They are illegal migrants – they are not real asylum seekers,” he claimed on Thursday.
Official figures show that 92 percent of small boat migrants arriving since 2018 have applied for asylum and most of the cases decided have been granted.
The Interior Ministry stated that it makes no distinction between entry methods when allocating asylum accommodation and that Bibby Stockholm’s main goal is to reduce spending on hotels.
A spokesman added, “The first asylum seekers are now being housed on the ship in Portland, after all health, fire and safety checks have been successfully completed.” of a carefully structured step-by-step approach gradually increases as more arrivals are added.”