Plans to acquire additional barges for housing asylum seekers have been abandoned by the Home Office due to complications, delays, and disputes surrounding the existing Bibby Stockholm barge. The government had initially promoted the use of accommodation vessels as a cost-effective alternative to housing migrants in hotels, where costs have escalated to £8 million per day.
Efforts to secure new barges have been discontinued, primarily due to difficulties in finding ports willing to accommodate them. The Bibby Stockholm, the only commissioned accommodation barge thus far, has encountered various setbacks. Tragically, an Albanian asylum seeker living on board took his own life in December. The barge was also evacuated last summer due to the discovery of dangerous bacteria, remaining vacant for two months.
Despite over £22 million in taxpayers’ money being spent on the Bibby Stockholm, conditions on board have faced criticism from campaigners. The Home Office maintains that it is exploring alternative accommodation sites, including vessels used successfully by the Scottish and Dutch governments and former military sites.
Recent reports indicate that securing additional barges is no longer a priority for the Home Office. The use of hotels to house asylum seekers is gradually being phased out by ministers, with plans to reduce the number by 50 by the end of January. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s claim that ministers have cleared the backlog of 92,000 legacy cases is under investigation by the official statistics watchdog following allegations of misinformation.
In the midst of these developments, more migrants arrived in the UK as Channel crossings resumed, with Border Force seen bringing groups ashore in Dover, Kent.
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