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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Edward Barnes

No contract in place to house 1,800 asylum seekers off Wirral

There is no contract currently in place to house 1,800 asylum seekers on a boat off the coast of Wirral, the ECHO understands.

It was first revealed in the Liverpool ECHO that the government was considering plans to house asylum seekers on a boat close to the Wirral Waters developments near Seacombe.

This comes as the government is making plans to move asylum seekers out of hotels and onto boats in an effort to reduce costs, but the plans have sparked widespread condemnation from politicians across the Liverpool City Region.

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Those concerned about the proposal have pointed to a lack of infrastructure, transport services, and shops in the area describing the plans as creating a “floating prison.”

Peel Ports, which owns and operates the waters and port infrastructure in the Birkenhead area, however said that it would only go ahead with the plans if there was full engagement with Wirral Council.

Director of Regeneration and Place for Wirral Council David Hughes said they had received few details about the proposal and had not been formally notified.

He added: “We are currently in the process of writing to the Home Office setting out a wide range of questions, concerns and challenges the borough would face should an operation of this nature and sheer scale be progressed in Wirral.”

The ECHO understands there is currently no contract in place and that any possibility of a contract was theoretical at this stage until arrangements were made with Wirral Council.

A spokesperson for Peel Ports said: “We have been clear from the outset that any agreement to accommodate a vessel for refugees in Birkenhead will require the willing participation and full collaboration of local authorities.

“We have seen this model work over the course of last year, as we provided a berth for a vessel accommodating refugees in Glasgow. This was delivered with the full support of the local agencies working in partnership with the vessel’s management and port operations.”

The plans have also been criticised by Wirral council leader Janette Williamson. On Twitter, she described the idea as “inhumane and unworkable, fag-packet policies using people as collateral damage.”

She added: “This is an ill-thought out plan by an incompetent government who have no idea on how to tackle the problem.

"It is not acceptable to maroon up to 1800 vulnerable people on a ship without sufficient infrastructure nor budget to support them, and expect them to remain there until their claims are processed - which, if recent government performance is anything to go by, could take years.

"There has been no consultation with the community, or with me as Leader of the Council. The Immigration Minister couldn't even be bothered to pick up the phone to talk it through. This is how little regard the Tories have for the people of Merseyside, let alone the people who'll be on that ship. "

"This government has stripped our public services of funding to the point that many Wirral residents can’t get an NHS dentist, or a timely appointment to see a doctor. Mental health services are in crisis. There is simply not the infrastructure to support this vessel being moored here."

She said the welfare of those housed on the boat had not been considered, adding: "These are vulnerable people who do not deserve to be imprisoned on a ship for nearly two years.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The number of people arriving in the UK who require accommodation has reached record levels and has put our asylum system under incredible strain.

“We have been clear that the use of hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable – there are currently more than 51,000 asylum seekers in hotels costing the UK taxpayer £6m a day.

“We have to use alternative accommodation options, as our European neighbours are doing – including the use of barges and ferries to save the British taxpayer money and to prevent the UK becoming a magnet for asylum shoppers in Europe.”


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