We firmly believe that barges and tents are not suitable or safe accommodation for asylum seekers. This cruelty does not represent us, and it is crucial for all of us who object to speak out now.

At Asylum Welcome we believe that asylum seekers and refugees should have the right to live in dignity and safety while their claims are processed. We believe that this is true whether one is fleeing conflict or persecution in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran or anywhere else. And we do not understand how this point can be contentious in a liberal democracy committed to upholding universal principles of human rights.

We deplore plans to house asylum seekers in barges and tents. The barge plan seems especially insensitive given that for that many asylum seekers the sea represents a site of trauma. There are also serious concerns regarding safety on board (including fire safety) and limited access to healthcare for individuals with mental and physical health vulnerabilities. Every individual deserves access to proper medical care and attention, regardless of their circumstances or immigration status. We note that the last time the Bibby Stockholm barge was used to house asylum seekers, there were distressing reports of rape and abuse aboard as well as the reported death of one man due to a delayed response to his deteriorating heart condition.

The decision to resort to makeshift tents for accommodation brings back memories of the terrible conditions experienced at the Manston processing centre last year. Asylum seekers were forced to sleep on cardboard on the floor, in overcrowded spaces, and were deprived of fresh air. 171 organisations accused the government of creating ‘an entirely preventable humanitarian catastrophe‘ at the site. Inmates contracted scabies and diphtheria, and tragically, one man died.

Safety should always be a top priority when it comes to accommodating individuals seeking refuge. We urge policymakers to consider alternative community-based solutions that foster dignity, respect, and integration for asylum seekers. And we urge the public to stand up for the values of compassion and humanity, not cruelty.

📢 You can express your opposition to this cruelty by signing the open letters to the Government and the Shadow Cabinet organised by our friends at Migrants’ Rights Network. You can also sign the petition here.