Migrants who refused to move to barge could lose free accommodation

Asylum seekers who refused to move to the Bibby Stockholm barge to find out today if they will be stripped of taxpayer-funded support

  • The Bibby Stockholm finally received its first 15 residents earlier this week

Migrants who have refused to move to the Home Office’s new accommodation barge will discover today if they will be stripped of taxpayer-funded support.

Fifteen asylum seekers brought legal challenges against attempts to relocate them from hotels to the Bibby Stockholm barge.

Seven claimed they had a phobia of water, it is understood.

All 15 were issued with legal notices by the Home Office warning them that free accommodation could be withdrawn if they declined to relocate to the barge berthed at Portland, Dorset. Those 24-hour legal warnings were due to expire last night.

A decision is due to be made on the cases by Home Office officials later today.

The Bibby Stockholm barge docked in Portland Port, Dorset, is pictured where it received its first 15 residents on Monday

If taxpayer-funded support is withdrawn the migrants are likely to be declared homeless, meaning responsibility for their care passes from central government to the local authority where they are currently living.

The Bibby Stockholm finally received its first 15 residents on Monday, with further arrivals yesterday.

A letter sent by the Home Office to an asylum seeker who refused to board the barge said ‘accommodation is offered on a no-choice basis’, Sky News reported. ‘Where asylum seekers fail to take up an offer of suitable accommodation without a reasonable explanation, there should be no expectation that alternative accommodation will be offered,’ the document went on.

‘If you do not travel tomorrow, on August 8, 2023, arrangements for ceasing the support that you are receiving from the Home Office may commence.’

Migrant charity Care4Calais claimed on Monday it had ‘cancelled’ the transfer of 20 asylum seekers.

People board the Bibby Stockholm immigration barge on Monday. The Bibby Stockholm is moored at Portland in Dorset, as part of the Home Office’s plan to accommodate up to 500 people on the vessel

The Justice Secretary conceded that Care4Calais’ legal challenges were ‘not improper of themselves’. Alex Chalk told the BBC yesterday: ‘But we will be challenging them because we take the view that they are misguided, they are last-minute, they are… completely misconceived.’

He added withdrawing accommodation for asylum seekers refusing to board the barge was ‘unlikely’ to be illegal.

Mr Chalk said: ‘That is something that the courts would have to consider but I think it’s unlikely, bluntly, that it would be illegal to do so but all cases are considered on their facts.’

Care4Calais said asylum seekers were ‘entitled to say no’ if asked to move, and had a right to legal representation.

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