Two more barges will be used to house about a thousand asylum seekers

Two more barges will be used to house asylum seekers as part of continued efforts to reduce Channel crossings, Rishi Sunak has announced.

The prime minister declined to say where they will be moored, but said they will be used to house an extra one thousand migrants who enter the UK illegally.

The government has already acquired one ship, the Bibby Stockholm, which will be used to provide accommodation for around 500 male asylum seekers off the Dorset coast.

Speaking at a news conference in Kent, Mr Sunak said this will dock in Portland within a fortnight and two more barges had been secured.

The prime minister said: “To reduce pressures on local communities we will also house people on ships. The first will arrive in Portland in the next fortnight and we’ve secured another two today.”

On top of this measure, Mr Sunak said thousands of extra spaces for migrants have been found in hotels by making people share rooms.

The prime minister insisted this was “more than fair” following protests outside accommodation in Pimlico, London.

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He said: “If you’re coming here illegally claiming sanctuary from death, torture or persecution, then you should be willing to share a taxpayer funded hotel room in central London.”

Charities and opposition MPs have previously criticised the government for housing asylum seekers in unsuitable accommodation.

But Mr Sunak said the numbers making the Channel crossing were down by around a fifth since last year and “our plan is starting to work”.

He said the returns deal with Albania had led to 1,800 people being sent back, and was having a deterrent effect.

He said: “Before I launched my plan in December, the number entering the UK illegally in small boats had more than quadrupled in two years. Some said this problem was insoluble, or just a fact of 21st century life.

“They’d lost faith in politicians to put in the hard yards to do something about it. And of course, we still have a long way to go. But in the five months since I launched the plan, crossings are now down 20% compared to last year.

“This is the first time since this problem began that arrivals between January and May have fallen compared to the year before.”

He suggested that the UK was doing better than other European countries to tackle illegal migration, but said that the government was not “complacent”.

He added: “With grit and determination, the government can fix this and we are using every tool at our disposal.”


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