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UK Plan To House Asylum Seekers On Barge Sparks Protest: ‘Treating Them As Animals’

By Belal Awad · July 29, 2023

In brief…

  • The UK's plan to house asylum seekers in tents and on a docked barge has sparked controversy and protest.
  • Critics denounce it as inhumane, calling the barge a "quasi-prison."
  • Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper called for resolving the crisis by processing claims more efficiently.
  • The UK Home Office defended its plan, insisting it meets all legal requirements.
The Bibby Stockholm, called the 'migrant barge,' can house 500 asylum seekers.  Ashley Smith / Wikimedia Commons

The British government’s decision to house asylum seekers in tents and on a 500-person ‘barge’ docked off the coast of Dorset has sparked sharp criticism from community leaders and activists. The move, part of the government’s plan to divert asylum seekers from costly hotels, has been met with wide disapproval.

Mohammed Fahim, a community volunteer who works with migrants, voiced dismay at the government’s program in a Sky News interview, saying, “They treat them as second-class citizens or obviously worse than human… They are human beings. Let’s treat them as human beings rather than treating them as animals.”

The plan involves erecting tents at mothballed government facilities, such as former air bases, to accommodate the ongoing influx of asylum seekers entering Britain. An earlier group of asylum seekers now reside at a former air base in Essex.

In addition to the tents, the government is set to begin moving asylum seekers onto a purpose-built barge - the Bibby Stockholm - off the coast of Dorset. The proposal has been met with similar disdain, as critics label it a “quasi-prison.”

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper told Sky News the crisis could be resolved by dealing with people’s claims more efficiently. “There is long-standing asylum accommodation in this country, which should be completely sufficient for everything we need that has been in place for very, very many years,” said Cooper. “If they properly cleared the backlog, they wouldn’t need to use any of these things.”

Despite the backlash, the Home Office insisted the accommodations offered to asylum seekers meet all legal requirements, adding that migrants will not have a choice over where they are sent.