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Portland: Berthing Migrant Barge Right Thing to Do, Port Says

A port says providing berthing space for a barge to house asylum seekers is “the right thing to do”.

Five hundred male migrants will be housed on the Bibby Stockholm at Portland Port.

The port said it was working to minimise its impact locally and maximise the benefits of its stay.

Dorset Council said it remained opposed to the scheme but would fulfil its statutory responsibilities.

Council leader Spencer Flower said: “Dorset Council’s position has not changed.

“We still have serious reservations about the appropriateness of Portland Port in this scenario and we remain opposed to the proposals.

“However, like all local agencies, we have statutory responsibilities to fulfil and collectively we want to ensure robust arrangements are in place if this goes ahead.”

Dorset’s Police and Crime Commissioner, David Sidwick, said he would be pushing the government to properly fund security for the vessel.

“I am determined that the funding should not come from the current police budget or from the people of Dorset,” he said.

The boat is due to arrive in June and the first residents could start to move in as part of a staggered arrival from July.

The vessel is expected to stay at Portland for at least 18 months.

In a statement, Portland Port said it believed, at accommodation sites elsewhere, concerns about crime and antisocial behaviour had proven “to be unfounded”.

Bill Reeves, the port’s chief executive, said: “We understand that there are genuine concerns about the arrival of the accommodation facility for refugees at Portland.

“We wish to reassure local people that a great deal of effort and co-ordination is being carried out in relation to such issues as security, policing, health provision and other matters.”

The port said the asylum seekers would have had their fingerprints and identities recorded by the Home Office before going aboard.

They will also receive health screening for medical conditions.

Mr Reeves added: “Portland Port strongly believes that providing berthing space for the refugees’ accommodation is the right thing to do.

“There is a strong incentive for the refugees to be law-abiding because they are in the latter stages of their asylum assessment.

“They have no greater ambition than to be accepted in the UK after fleeing sometimes horrific situations.

“I cannot think why people who have travelled thousands of miles and have risked their lives to get here would do anything to run the risk of their asylum claim being denied and them being deported.”

He added that refugees would be given advice about cultural sensitivities and behaviour. The port said the Home Office was talking to the local voluntary and community sector about providing a range of activities, including English language training.

It is also in discussions with the NHS about the potential range of on-site medical facilities to help mitigate the impact on local health services.

The Home Office says the vessel will provide basic accommodation to migrants, reducing the reliance on costly hotels.

Source : BBC