The British Government has formally inaugurated the controversial pilot project with which it intends to accommodate half a thousand irregular migrants in a ship moored on the south coast of England. The first asylum seekers arrived this Monday morning at the so-called Bibby Stockholm, a huge iron structure docked in the port of Portland, a privately owned dock on the Dorset coast (south-west England), and the Ministry The Interior Ministry has confirmed that the transfer will continue for weeks, despite security alerts and ongoing legal processes promoted by human rights organizations.
The initiative is part of the controversial plan with which the conservative Executive intends to stop the flow of arrivals through the English Channel. Its objective is to toughen the conditions of those who arrive without a residence permit, but deputies from the government party itself, such as former Prime Minister Theresa May, groups of lawyers and humanitarian associations have condemned the proposals as “inhumane” and denounced that they make any route impossible. to settle legally in the UK.
The large barge that will host up to 500 immigrants starting this Monday is one of the symbols of the heavy hand with which the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, wants to materialize one of the great slogans of his mandate: Stop the Boats. ”, in reference to the boats that arrive at the British coast, the majority from France). The idea has generated severe criticism since it was announced and, after the arrival of the ship in Dorset on July 20, there were delays due to obstacles detected in terms of security and infrastructure.
Aerial view of a bus and people arriving at the ship ‘Bibby Stockholm’, converted into a migrant center, in the port of Portland, this Monday.Finnbarr Webster (Getty Images)The ‘Bibby Stockholm’ docked in Portland Harbor on August 6.Finnbarr Webster (Getty Images)Several people with luggage board the ship ‘Bibby Stockholm’, converted into a migrant center, in the port of Portland, this Monday.BEN STANSALL (AFP)Several people greet a bus carrying asylum seekers arriving at the ‘Bibby Stockholm’ ship, converted into a migrant center, in the port of Portland, this Monday.Ben Birchall (AP)Several people hold banners at the arrival of people to the ship ‘Bibby Stockholm’, converted into a migrant center, in the port of Portland, this Monday.BEN STANSALL (AFP)Several people with luggage board the ship ‘Bibby Stockholm’, converted into a migrant center, in the port of Portland, this Monday. TOBY MELVILLE (REUTERS)
The Government insists that the problems have been resolved and alleges that neighboring countries, such as Germany or the Netherlands, have promoted similar actions to house the homeless and also immigrants. The conviction in the British case, however, is not limited to the humanitarian field. The Union of Fire Brigades, the largest of the union in the United Kingdom, has warned of the risk posed by the small dimensions of the ship’s exits and the very crowd of people, while the local health authorities have warned of the impact of a potential infectious outbreak , both for residents and for staff working on the premises. Last year, an inmate at the Manston immigration center in Kent County died after contracting diphtheria.
The logistics arranged for the Bibby Stockholm are also in the spotlight due to the intention to accommodate half a thousand immigrants, when the barge, which had been used, among others, by workers in the oil and gas sector, has capacity for 222 people. The increase will be possible through the installation of bunk beds and the conversion of communal areas into dormitories to accommodate between six and eight people. The forecast, for now, is to transfer men between the ages of 18 and 65 who are in the last phase of their asylum application and the maximum they can stay is nine months.
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The Government insists that it is a question of savings. In the absence of the Minister of the Interior, Suella Braverman, one of the great promoters of the tightening of British immigration policy, this Monday it was a Secretary of State for the department, Sarah Dines, who defended the plan. In an extensive round of interviews in British media such as the BBC, Dines claimed that the controversial conditions are “basic, but adequate.” From Interior they maintain that the daily cost of housing the 51,000 immigrants that it currently has in hotels is around six million pounds (6.97 million euros).
Two tugboats maneuver next to the ‘Bibby Stockholm’ during its berthing tasks, on July 18. Ben Birchall (PA Images/Getty Images)
But the heavy hand is also ideological. The Tory strategists have detected that immigration continues to be one of the fastest igniting fuses in the electoral imagination of the United Kingdom and a sector of the Conservatives has demanded forceful measures from Sunak. The start-up of the Bibby Stockholm as a reception center, however, has generated significant local tensions on the islet where it is moored, which lacks a hospital and has a single access road.
The port is a strategic enclave for the docking of large cruise ships and a platform established under the name No to the Barge (“No to the Boat”, in English) is already organizing protests before the impact on the tourist attraction that they believe that the ship can have ; while others, such as Stand Up To Racism Dorset (“Rebelate Against Racism”, in English), are located at the opposite extreme, and have an agenda of activities planned to keep immigrants entertained.
The location is not random either. The Government has failed in its attempt to convince other areas to allow similar initiatives, but is confident that the potential success of this first experiment will open up possibilities for the future. For now, he has thrown money to seduce local authorities, with the Ministry of the Interior as one of the major sponsors, with almost a million pounds (1.2 million euros) for the National Health Service (NHS, in its acronym in English) of Dorset to provide medical assistance to inmates and additional funds for police forces.
In addition, municipal institutions will receive 3,500 pounds (4,000 euros) for each space occupied on the boat and have already received an extraordinary item of 380,000 pounds (442,000 euros) to provide support to NGOs and local volunteer groups to provide additional services. .
More punishments for those who employ or give housing to people without papers
For the government headed by the conservative Rishi Sunak, perception weighs as much as the substance of the measures. The volume of arrivals from the English Channel so far this year has already reached record numbers, 15,000, and the British Home Office is preparing for an additional wave in September and October, favored by milder weather at the start of the autumn. For this reason, the Executive has raised the rhetoric: together with the transfer to the Bibby Stockholm, this Monday it announced a severe tightening of the sanctions for those who give work, or rent homes, to people in an irregular situation.
In the case of companies, the fines for violating the rules triple and can exceed the equivalent of 70,000 euros. For landlords, the increase is exponentially higher, going from 1,000 pounds (1,160 euros) to 10,000 (11,600 euros) per tenant, which is a clear message: the responsibility for reducing the number of immigrants is not only the responsibility of the Government .
In addition, as a reminder that other controversial measures are still in force, such as the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda, Sarah Dines also admitted on Monday the information published in the British media about the possibility of sending them to Ascension, a volcanic island part of the territories from the United Kingdom overseas, with fewer than 900 inhabitants and no hospital. The idea is not new. It had been discarded in 2020 as unfeasible. But in case the initial plan fails, that of Rwanda (currently under appeal to the Supreme Court), could be analyzed again.
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