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Glasgow City Council says it would oppose any plan for asylum seeker barge | UK News

Glasgow will rebuff any plan to dock a barge for asylum seekers in the city.

Council leader Susan Aitken said Scotland’s largest local authority would not consent to any request from the UK government.

However, Sky News understands the Home Office has not initiated any such plans for a vessel in Glasgow.

It comes after the first group of asylum seekers began boarding the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland Port, Dorset, on Monday.

It is the government’s latest plan to “stop the boats” and deter dangerous Channel crossings by migrants.

The barge is one of a number of alternative sites the Home Office is using to end reliance on expensive hotels for asylum seekers, which the government says is costing around £6m a day.

Up to 500 men will be able to live on the 222-bedroom barge while they await the outcome of their asylum applications.

In a post on X on Monday, Ms Aitken said: “The UK government wants Glasgow City Council to give consent to an asylum barge being sited in the city. We will not give it.

“Glasgow’s communities are proud to be beacons of support and integration for asylum seekers and refugees. This is the polar opposite of that.”

A council spokesperson said the local authority was “made aware that agents working on behalf of the Home Office were exploring a potential site for a barge within Glasgow”.

They added: “The council has made it clear to the Home Office that it does not support such a move.”

Leader of Glasgow City Council Susan Aitken during a tour of the construction site at Kelvin Hall where the BBC has been unveiled as the Tenant Operator for the new �11.9 million Kelvin Hall Film & Broadcast Studio Hub in Glasgow. Picture date: Wednesday December 8, 2021.
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Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken

Ms Aitken later defended her stance following accusations of “hypocrisy” given that Glasgow housed one of two cruise ships used by the Scottish government for Ukrainian refugees.

Around 1,200 people lived on MS Ambition, berthed on the River Clyde, between September 2022 and March 2023 with no opposition from the council.

The Ukrainian refugees were moved out of the ship into more permanent accommodation after the Scottish government’s contract expired.

Ms Aitken hit back: “In Scotland, the use of ships in a humanitarian emergency was made as brief and supported as possible.

“UK ministers have actually said they are using these barges because budget hotels are ‘too luxurious’. Trying to equate the two is just trying to defend the Tory indefensible.”

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Housing the Channel Migrants

Read more:
What it’s like inside the barge?
Asylum backlog: Government must triple activity to meet target
Asylum seekers face withdrawal of government support if they don’t board barge

The second ship, MS Victoria, was docked in Leith, Edinburgh, and housed Ukrainians between July 2022 and July 2023.

Back in June, City of Edinburgh Council leader Cammy Day said the local authority had been contacted by the UK government over its intention to commission the vessel to house asylum seekers.

File photo dated 24/08/22 of the MS Victoria ferry berthed in the Port of Leith, Edinburgh, which is providing temporary accommodation to Ukrainian refugees invited to Scotland. Almost 1,200 homes are being brought back into use to house Ukrainian refugees with the help of a Scottish Government fund.Issue date: Thursday July 13, 2023.
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The MS Victoria housed Ukrainian refugees between July 2022 and July 2023

Opposing the plans, Mr Day wrote to the Home Office for more information and voiced concerns that the ship could become a “floating prison” for asylum seekers.

The plans were not taken forward.

The Home Office said the current asylum system is under “extreme pressure” and is costing the UK £3bn per year, including around £6m a day on hotel accommodation.

A spokesperson said: “The Home Office has a statutory obligation to provide accommodation for asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute while we consider their claim.

“The significant increase in illegal, unnecessary and dangerous Channel crossings has put our asylum system under incredible strain and made it necessary to continue to use hotels to accommodate some asylum seekers.

“We are committed to making every effort to reduce hotel use and continue to engage with local authorities as early as possible whenever sites are used for asylum accommodation.”

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