By Connor Steel
SUELLA BRAVERMAN has faced a further call to scrap the Government’s “harsh” immigration policy and also her own resignation after a tough week for the Home Office department; which has seen another “tragedy” over Channel waters and the temporary closure of their “Bibby Stockholm” barge just four days after opening for asylum seekers on Monday.
Searches are still on-going in the English Channel following an incident on Saturday morning (August 12); which saw a migrant boat get into difficulty off the coast of Calais. At this time of writing six people have sadly died whilst another 59 migrants were rescued by operation teams featuring British and French ships; but others are thought to still be missing.
Campaigners have said these latest events were an “appalling and preventable tragedy” as they called for a number of safe routes to be created; warning that more people will die unless urgent action is taken. A cross-party section of MPs have further argued that attentions should be focused on punishing criminal gangs who arrange / profit from crossings.
Ms Braverman stated that her “thoughts and prayers” were with those affected and announced that she had chaired an urgent meeting with Border Force teams on Saturday; this tragedy coming during a rise in people crossing the channel over recent days. Last Thursday it was reported that 755 migrants made this journey; the highest daily figure this year.
It brings the annual total of migrants crossing the channel to 16,000 so far in 2023 and a total of one hundred thousand since summer 2018; with these numbers set to rise over the next few weeks as waters look set to calm. This could lead to overwhelming pressure on rescue teams and indeed the backlog in processing asylum claims to enter Britain legally.
The channel tragedy comes at the end of the Government’s self-promoted “small-boat” week and follows another huge blow for their immigration policy; which saw the “Biddy Stockholm” barge shut temporarily after Legionella bacteria was found within the water supply on board and all 39 migrants were moved away into hotels for safety reasons as a result.
Mainstream media has reported that the routine testing of water supplies was completed on July 25 and the findings all received on Monday; which saw the first migrants board onto the barge in Portland Port. But Home Office officials were only made aware on Wednesday and the “removal of migrants” started after talks with UK Health Agency staff; another six migrants entering the vessel accommodation on Thursday despite this news that bacteria had been found onboard.
These developments have also led to calls for both Ms Braverman and the Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick should tender their resignations; the latter saying the barge was “a pleasant place to live” early on Wednesday. There is further the accusation that the Fareham MP has ignored previous warnings and safety guidance but it is unproven at this time.
Senior Conservative backbencher David Davis said the “startling incompetence” of the Home Office had been revealed whilst a second Tory MP stated that Ms Braverman should now be “sacked” by the Prime Minister. A third official further questioned how Rishi Sunak could back the Home Secretary after “a farce that could ruin one of the five main policies”.
Nobody is believed to have reported any symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease and an official analysis of these results is expected to be carried out; meaning that the barge could remain closed for several weeks. But opposition parties have voiced the argument that it shouldn’t reopen and these events in Portland must be urgently investigated independently.
Shadow Immigration Minister, Stephen Kinnock, said that the Bibby Stockholm was “a floating symbol of Conservatism incompetence” and argued that the Government wouldn’t need to use these facilities if they tackled backlogs in asylum systems. Figures show there are over 173,000 claims on file; far more than the current capacities of the asylum estate.
The Government have responded that they will continue to “stop the boats” and are working to “reduce the backlog” of claims in the asylum system but have said that a combination of measures must be followed in the meantime. This will include the use of military bases and barges which is believed to reduce the current £6 million daily costs on hotel bills.
Readers are encouraged to visit media sites like BBC News, Sky News and ITV News for all of the developing updates on this story; which could feature all analysis from political correspondents and any fresh Government announcements.
PICTURED BY ALAMY (2RDGA2Y): Exterior view of Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge located at Portland Port.