The Government has essentially threatened to make asylum seekers homeless if they refuse to board the Bibby Stockholm, campaigners have said.
The charity Care4Calais has said it has ‘serious concerns’ about the wording the Home Office has used in letters to asylum seekers.
Sky News reported one which was sent to a man who would not board the barge in Portland, Devon, on Monday.
It said: ‘Accommodation is offered on a no-choice basis.
‘Where asylum seekers fail to take up an offer of suitable accommodation without a reasonable explanation, there should be no expectation that alternative accommodation will be offered.
‘If you do not travel tomorrow, on August 8, 2023, arrangements for ceasing the support that you are receiving from the Home Office may commence.’
Another said: ‘Your accommodation is changing and you will be moved to the Bibby Stockholm, Portland.’
While it provides contact details to seek further ‘advice and guidance on the asylum and support process’, it does not mention legal rights or access to representation.
Care4Calais said the language used suggests the move is mandatory, when ‘asylum seekers are entitled to say no’ and have a right to challenge the decision and seek legal representation.
Chief executive Steve Smith said: ‘Everyone has a right to access justice in the UK, and that includes the right to access legal advice. It is really clear that there are issues with Bibby Stockholm letters, which are being issued by the Government, and this fundamental right.
‘Every asylum seeker who receives a Bibby Stockholm letter has the right to challenge it, and there are multiple reasons for them to do so – from people’s mental and physical health, to some of the clients being disabled.
‘We have serious concerns that the letters, as they have been issued, portray a strong element of compulsion when in fact asylum seekers are entitled to say no.’
He accused the Government of ‘trying to target those asylum seekers who have been unable to secure legal representation by threatening to make them homeless if they don’t move.’
Mr Smith went on: ‘We have been referring clients to solicitors in order to challenge their notices. None of those clients has received this latest Home Office threat, and we would encourage all asylum seekers who receive a Bibby Stockholm notice to seek legal advice.’
Officials confirmed asylum seekers are not given a choice on where they are housed and, if the accommodation is refused, Government support could be withdrawn.
But it is understood decisions are made on an individual basis and changes could be made if valid reasons are provided as to why the accommodation may be unsuitable, for example, if it lacks facilities for disabled people.
The Government had initially planned for a group of 50 people to be the first to board the barge on Monday.
But it was later reported that only 15 cooperated, with 20 refusing, and more boarding on Tuesday.
Wrong again @HackneyAbbott
I told illegal migrants to go back to France not genuine asylum seekers.
Btw not seen you in Parliament for a few months. Are you on leave or have you said something daft again?https://t.co/jL7g2h3eGt
Treasury minister Andrew Griffiths said people’s resistance would mean ‘effectively taking themselves out of the asylum support system’.
Tory MP Lee Anderson has made waves for his comments about the situation, after he told the Daily Express: ‘If they don’t like barges then they should f*** off back to France.’
Justice secretary Alex Chalk, who previously warned about ‘ugly bigotry’ in British politics, defended the words.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘Lee is expressing in salty terms I think something that people will understand, which is that the British people have warm hearts, but we also want to have a secure front door.’
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