Welcome to the good life – on sea. Migrants staying on the Home Office’s new floating hotel will be given a taste of British life including tending to allotments, guided hikes in the Dorset countryside, cycling and cricket.
The asylum seekers will also get free busses and taxis to enjoy the local town and organised ‘cultural events’.
And on board the Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge, there is free canteen food around the clock, TV rooms, a gym and 222 en-suite bedrooms.
Soon, some 500 adult male migrants will be calling this hulking great ‘floatel’ their temporary home – and today the Mail was given a guided tour.
The three-storey Bibby Stockholm is the Home Office’s solution to its rocketing £6million-a-day hotels bill for new arrivals. The enormous barge, the length of a football pitch, is docked in Portland harbour on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, having been towed into place by tugboats on Tuesday, amid a storm of controversy.
Vociferous placard-waving locals are united in not wanting it, but are bitterly divided into two warring groups. One half fears the consequences of having 500 men roaming their seaside town, and the other half shouting them down are ‘anti racists’ who effectively seem to be protesting that the barge isn’t luxurious enough.
Today as the two groups raised merry hell on the quayside, the Mail was among a group of journalists welcomed aboard to see for ourselves. The Home Office’s tour of the three-storey floating hotel was laid on as final touches were being made for the first guests – or ‘service users’ as they call them – to arrive next week.
Migrants are not locked up and are free to come and go, but once up the gangplank they will have to pass through an airport-style metal detector and put any bags through an x-ray machine.
Our tour guide from the company running the barge explained this was to give everyone on board peace of mind.
Many of the migrants have come from war-torn countries, she said, adding that it had been agreed not to hold fire drills in case it ‘upset’ anyone with a traumatic past.
The migrants will mainly sleep two to a room, in single bunkbeds, and each 12ft by 12ft en-suite bedroom has a wardrobe, a desk and a television – although the TV has a British plug but the electrical sockets are all EU ones. And the aerial isn’t connected ‘to encourage socialising’.
This barge will not win any interior design awards but it does live up to the Home Office description of being ‘basic and functional’. Over its three levels, there are five lounges including two TV rooms, a laundry and a gym with two running machines, some weights and a music system.