Royal Docks asylum seekers barge opposed by Khan ‘in strongest terms’

London mayor warns the government plan to house hundreds of asylum seekers on a barge next to City Hall will “leave vulnerable people without support”, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Royal Docks and (inset) Sadiq Khan
Royal Docks and (inset) Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan has spoken out over a proposal to house asylum seekers on a barge in London’s Royal Docks – just across from his own office.

The mayor is strongly opposed to the plan and said that it would leave “vulnerable people” without “access to the support they need”.

It is understood that the Home Office approached the Royal Docks Management Authority (RoDMA) some weeks ago about the possibility of mooring a barge at the docks next to City Airport.

City Hall is itself located on the docks and is one of several local organisations – along with Newham Council – which have representatives within RoDMA.

“I oppose these plans in the strongest possible terms,” said Khan. “I am proud of London’s history of providing sanctuary for those seeking refuge, and I am concerned that vulnerable people fleeing appalling circumstances would not have access to the support they need, with their safety, health and wellbeing being put at serious risk.

“The government’s approach to asylum seekers is cruel and unworkable, and will be made worse by the Illegal Migration Bill.

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“Instead councils and relevant partners need to retain the legal powers and the funding to support asylum seekers humanely and with dignity.

“We all have a responsibility to help those escaping oppression and violence, and ministers need to completely rethink their plans as a matter of urgency.”

It is understood that RoDMA will soon confirm its formal opposition to the proposal.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed this week that the government had acquired two giant barges to house about 1,000 people seeking refuge in the UK – though their locations have not yet been confirmed. A third barge is already planned to be moored at Portland, off the coast of Dorset.

A Home Office spokesman refused to comment directly on the Royal Docks proposal, but said: “The pressure on the asylum system has continued to grow and requires us to look at a range of accommodation options which offer better value for the British taxpayer than expensive hotels.

“This is why we continue to source new alternative sites and vessels to accommodate migrants, which are more manageable for communities, as our European neighbours are doing.

“We understand the concerns of local communities and will work closely with councils and key partners to manage the impact of using these sites, including liaising with local police to make sure appropriate arrangements are in place.”

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