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Asylum seeker accommodation barge arrives as UK passes controversial migration bill

Tug boat Mercia pulls the Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge into Portland in Dorset where it is due to house migrants.

An accommodation barge has arrived in the English town of Portland, in Dorset, where it will house 500 asylum seekers. 

The Bibby Stockholm arrived a month later than planned, and just a few hours after Britain's parliament passed a controversial migration bill which the United Nations has described as contrary to international law.

Under the new law, anyone reaching the country illegally by boat will be refused the right to apply for asylum in the United Kingdom. It also includes measures to transfer all irregular arrivals to "safe" third countries such as Rwanda, although the Rwanda plan has so far been blocked by the Court of Appeal. 

The first asylum seekers are expected to board the Bibby Stockholm later this month.

Both the boat and the bill are part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's strategy to prevent migrants from reaching the UK in small boats across the English Channel. 

In 2022, more than 45,000 people did so and several lost their lives in the attempt. 

The legislation has already been passed by Parliament and now only needs the approval of King Charles III for it to become law.

Borris Johnson's Rwanda plan

The Rwanda plan, announced by then-prime minister Boris Johnson last year, was blocked at the last minute by the European Court of Human Rights - which is separate from the European Union - and is still mired in legal challenges.

The UK government last month said it would appeal a judgement by three Court of Appeal judges who ruled that Rwanda could not be considered a safe third country.

The ruling followed a challenge to the policy brought by 10 migrants and a charity supporting asylum seekers.

Sunak said he respected the court but "fundamentally" disagreed with the judges' conclusions.

To date, no deportation flights to Rwanda have taken place.

Rights groups accuse Rwanda - ruled with an iron fist by President Paul Kagame since the end of the 1994 genocide that killed around 800,000 people - of cracking down on free speech and political opposition.

Posted on 18 Jul 2023 15:43 link