Inside the barges which will house migrants: Floating vessels can accommodate hundreds of people with Scandi-style cabins, ‘relaxation rooms’, restaurants, gyms and even theatres
- Ministers are turning to the floating hotels, more commonly known as ‘coastels’
- The accommodation vessels vary in size, but can house hundreds of people
Accommodation barges with a large restaurant and its own kitchen may be used to house asylum seekers off the British coast.
Ministers are turning to the floating hotels, commonly known as ‘coastels’ in a bid to end a ‘hotel farce’ currently costing taxpayers more than £6million a day.
The barges are typically used to house workers for both short and long-term projects, mainly in the oil and gas industry, where accommodation is otherwise expensive or difficult to find.
The vessels vary in size, but can accommodate hundreds of people. Bibby Marine Ltd has had one such barge located in Scalloway, the largest of the Shetland Islands, was used to house hundreds of BP workers for more than two years from June 2013.
The Bibby Challenge barge, built between 1975 and 1981, contains 280 en suite bedrooms and facilities including a large restaurant, bar, gym and a number of games rooms.
The Bibby Progress (pictured) contains 159 fully air conditioned bedrooms that can house hundreds of people
The barges are typically used to house workers for both short and long-term projects, mainly in the oil and gas industry. Pictured: A bedroom on the Bibby Progress
More modern vessels tend to include cinema rooms, ‘relaxation rooms’ and Scandi-style cabins
Another vessel, the Bibby Progress, includes 159 fully air conditioned bedrooms, each with en suite shower rooms, along with multi-purpose recreational rooms and laundry facilities.
Each cabin tends to provide space for up to four people, with more than 26,000 people understood to be currently working on UK offshore oil and gas rigs.
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Facing labour shortages, companies have been increasingly attempting to improve the comfort of life on the barges to make them a more attractive proposition to graduates and school-leavers.
More modern vessels tend to include cinema rooms, ‘relaxation rooms’ and Scandi-style cabins as firms try to tackle the labour shortage.
A large temporary housing boat was located in the River Medway in Rochester, Kent, for eight years before being taken to Gibraltar and transformed into 400 luxury apartments in September 2021.
Discussions over the ‘floating accommodation’ are also understood to include disused cruise ships and ferries.
It comes as immigration minister Robert Jenrick told the Cabinet this week the average cost of housing a migrant in a hotel had reached £150 a night, more than £6million a day in total.
‘He made it clear that the cost is completely unsustainable,’ a source said. ‘We need to start getting people out of expensive hotels and into more appropriate accommodation.’
A surge in Channel migrants, coupled with a snail’s-pace system for processing them, has led to the Home Office scouring the country for rooms.
And the latest figures suggest that taxpayers are funding accommodation for more than 50,000 people in almost 400 hotels.
A report by an official watchdog yesterday warned £3.5billion of foreign aid money was spent on dealing with asylum seekers and refugees in the UK last year – nearly £10million a day – with the Home Office being slammed for its profligacy.
Sources said Mr Jenrick hoped to start moving new arrivals to military sites within weeks.
Those already in hotels will be moved out as more accommodation comes on stream.
Each cabin tends to provide space for up to four people, with more than 26,000 people understood to be currently working on UK offshore oil and gas rigs
The former prison ship that houses foreign workers employed at Lindsey Refinery is pictured at Grimsby docks in 2009
Inside HMSBar 914, which contains 310 single cabins and ‘substantial facilities and public areas’
A bar area pictured inside HMSBAR 914, which is available to charter for workers in south east Asia
The ground floor layout of the HMSBar 914 accommodation barge featuring the large gym, restaurant and bar
The first floor of the accommodation barge consists mainly of its 310 single cabins, a floorplan shows
Much the same as the first floor, much of the second consists of cabins, with the majority of facilities located on the ground floor of the barge
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab today described barges as ‘one possible option’, telling Sky News that the use of hotels was acting as a ‘perverse incentive’ to encourage crossings.
He also insisted Mr Cleverly ‘fully supports this policy’ despite the opposition to the base in his constituency being used.
Mr Raab also told BBC Breakfast there is a ‘huge cost to the taxpayer’ of hotel use, which he argued is acting as a ‘pull factor’.
He said: ‘We will look at the whole range of options, low-cost accommodation, ex-Army barracks and, where it’s appropriate, as has been used elsewhere in Europe, and I think in Scotland as well, vessels, if they can safely and responsibly be used.’
Rishi Sunak told his Cabinet yesterday that the cost of using hotels and the pressure it puts on local areas meant it was not sustainable.
The Prime Minister later told MPs that children cannot be exempted from plans to detain people who cross the Channel in small boats to prevent the creation of a ‘pull factor’.
Appearing before the Commons Liaison Committee, he also downplayed suggestions that flights under the Government’s stalled Rwanda policy would begin this summer.
Mr Sunak proposed putting Channel migrants on cruise ships during last summer’s Tory leadership contest, saying it would help end the ‘hotel farce’.
Plans to turn RAF Scampton (pictured) into a migrant detention centre have sparked fury among locals
The idea was dropped when he became PM last October but is back on the agenda as ministers scramble to secure large-scale facilities.
The push for floating accommodation also reflects concerns about the level of local opposition to the use of military sites.
The proposal to use the former Dambusters base has triggered outrage, with a council in Lincolnshire seeking listed status for part of the site to block it.
A Government spokesman said: ‘We have always been upfront about the unprecedented pressure being placed on our asylum system, brought about by a significant increase in dangerous and illegal journeys into the country.
‘We continue to work across Government and with local authorities to identify a range of accommodation options.
‘The Government remains committed to engaging with local authorities and key stakeholders as part of this process.’
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