First migrants step onto floating barge as hundreds more set to follow

Home Office denies asylum seeker barge is a ‘floating prison’

The first asylum seekers have arrived on the Bibby Stockholm barge with more expected later today, it is understood.

Plans to house illegal migrants on the vessel moored in Portland Port, Dorset, have been repeatedly delayed.

While only a small number of migrants are expected to be housed on the barge at first, it will eventually accommodate up to 500 males.

Home Office Minister Sarah Dines earlier said the first asylum seekers were expected “imminently”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re expecting pretty soon, imminently this week, in the coming days that people will be on the Bibby Stockholm.

For operational reasons, you wouldn’t expect me to confirm the hour or the day but it is pretty soon.”

The Government hopes the use of the barge and former military bases to house asylum seekers will reduce the eye-watering cost of hotel bills.

Meanwhile, other measures being considered to deter people from crossing the English Channel in small boats include the revival of previously-dropped plans to send asylum seekers to Ascension.

The proposals to use the British Overseas Territory are apparently being considered by ministers and officials as a “Plan B” if the Rwanda scheme fails.

The volcanic island in the South Atlantic could house an asylum processing centre.

It comes as the Rwanda policy has been stalled by legal challenges that will end up in the Supreme Court.

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