Braverman insists Government has done ‘really well’ on Bibby Stockholm barge
Suella Braverman defended the Government’s handling of the Bibby Stockholm barge as she admitted that “various procedures” need to be completed before migrants are returned to the vessel.
The floating accommodation has been out of use since August after people were evacuated following the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water supply.
Touring broadcast studios on Wednesday, the Home Secretary said she thinks the Government has done “really well” in its work on the barge.
But she did not indicate when migrants might be able to return to the vessel in Portland, Dorset, as “the necessary checks and authorisations” are still being carried out more than a month later.
We are carrying out all of the necessary checks and authorisations and, once those are completed, we'll be re-embarking people as quickly as possible
“We were disappointed, obviously, that we had to take people off the barge in August,” she told LBC.
“We are carrying out all of the necessary checks and authorisations and, once those are completed, we’ll be re-embarking people as quickly as possible.”
Asked what is causing the delay, she replied: “This is a complex issue. I think we’ve done very well to stand up the barge so far – there’s been a lot of project management, a lot of intensive work across all of Government to stand up these new sites from scratch.”
Ms Braverman said she remains confident in the safety of the barge despite the setbacks, which have included threats of legal action from a firefighters’ union.
It comes after the Home Office’s annual accounts showed the department is paying “around £8 million” a day for asylum seekers to be put up in hotels.
The figure is higher than the £6 million daily cost cited by Ms Braverman in the Commons on Monday.
Labour home affairs spokeswoman Yvette Cooper said the bill for hotels is “astronomical” and accused the Tories of failing to grip the issue of unlawful migration.
The Conservative UK Government passed the Illegal Migration Act in July, which is designed to give powers to deport asylum seekers arriving via unauthorised routes either back to their home country or to Rwanda.
The £140 million deal to send migrants to the East Africa nation, however, is held up in the courts, with a deportation flight yet to leave the runway.
The Home Office’s annual report said the Act “goes further than ever before” to prevent the arrival of small boats, but “legislative changes take time and there is no single silver bullet”.
The accounts also showed that the director-general for migration and borders, Emma Churchill, received a £15,000-£20,000 bonus, on top of her £130,000-£135,000 annual salary.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman deferred to the Home Office when asked whether the Government believed Ms Churchill deserved the bonus.
Ministers have looked to provide cheaper alternative housing for migrants who are waiting for their asylum application to be processed, with barges, such as the Bibby Stockholm in Dorset, and former military sites converted into accommodation.
Mr Sunak has made stopping the boats crossing the English Channel one of his top five priorities ahead of a likely general election next year.
Since he entered 10 Downing Street, provisional figures suggest at least 31,000 asylum seekers have crossed the Channel, while almost 24,000 have arrived in 2023.
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