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Amnesty condemns British government’s plans to house asylum seekers in disused cruise ships, barges and military barracks

Meanwhile, European Parliament votes for ‘more detentions and quicker deportations’ after UN warns of EU’s role in widespread human rights abuses in Libya

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL has condemned the British government’s “dismal” plans to move asylum seekers out of hotels and into disused cruise ships, barges and military barracks.

British Immigration minister Robert Jenrick told parliament today that the Conservative government is “exploring the possibility of accommodating migrants in vessels.”

The government claims that placing people on old cruise ships will “deter” those already desperate enough to attempt to cross the Channel, one of the busiest shipping routes in the world.

“People who have escaped terror and torture, endured criminal exploitation and traumatic journeys should be treated with basic human dignity, not corralled on barges or other grossly inadequate and isolated accommodation,” Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director Steve Valdez-Symonds said.

“The government wrecked the asylum system by choosing to stop or delay making decisions on thousands of people’s asylum claims — but the huge and expensive backlog it created is no excuse for failing to treat people properly.

“The consequences of dismal accommodation — subjecting people to prolonged squalor, social exclusion, mental and physical ill health, even outbreaks of fatal disease — keep being ignored.

“Ministers need to urgently focus on fairly and efficiently deciding people’s asylum claims while securing suitable accommodation in communities — but they recklessly continue to do the precise opposite at great human and financial cost.”

The British government says it is spending £6.2 million a day (€7m / US $7.6m) on housing asylum-seekers in hotels.

Forty-six people, including five newborn babies, died while housed at Home Office asylum-seeker accommodation in 2022, The Civil Fleet revealed earlier this month, more than double the number of people who died in 2021.

Amnesty warned on Tuesday that the British government is “bulldozing” human rights inside the country and becoming “a negative force for human rights on the world stage.”

Amnesty International UK CEO, Sacha Deshmukh said: “Would-be authoritarians around the world will be looking on approvingly as ministers have decimated the right to peaceful protest, shredded asylum rights, threatened to scrap the Human Rights Act and sought to block justice for Troubles victims.”

Earlier this week a UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission called for urgent action to address the deteriorating human rights situation in Libya.

The report says “a wide array of war crimes and crimes against humanity” — such as arbitrary detention, murder, rape, enslavement, extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance — “have been committed by state security forces and armed militia groups.”

Migrants in particular, the UN report said, “have been targeted and there is overwhelming evidence that they have been systematically tortured,” and warned that there were “reasonable grounds to believe that sexual slavery, a crime against humanity, was committed against migrants.”

Since 2016, the report adds, “EU member states and EU agencies have implemented a policy of returning people to Libya” by supporting and coordinating with the Libyan authorities and the Libyan Coastguard.

“The European Union Naval Forces [EUNAVFOR] Operation’s mission and mandate was specifically amended in June 2016 to include the provision of training and capacity-building to the [Libyan Coastguard] and Libyan Navy,” the report finds.

“[The European Border and Coastguard Agency] Frontex has been critical in providing aerial surveillance through various operations.

“Those involved in the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of migrants must have known that migrants detained were civilians, that they were arrested and detained solely on the basis of their immigration, without considering their international legal status, and that they were routinely subjected to violations and abuses in detention.”

Meanwhile, the European Parliament voted in favour of the European Pact on Migration and Asylum on Tuesday.

The human rights organisation Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (Picum) said on Monday that the pact means “more detention and quicker deportations.”

“Children above 12 could be detained at borders in some circumstances,” Picum said on social media.

“Despite the internationally recognised definition of children being every person until the age of 18, the compromises would validate a new line in the middle of adolescence.

“People would be automatically detained while waiting for their deportation…” and those “who are not supposed to be detained will in practice be held in border facilities.

“People will only have seven working days to appeal” the decision to deport them, and they “could be deported while waiting for the outcome of their appeal – which is against [Court of Justice of the European Union] jurisprudence.”

Top image shows Number 10 Downing Street, London, the official residence and office of the British Prime Minister


Published by The Civil Fleet

A news blog and podcast focused on the activist-led refugee rescue and support missions across Fortress Europe

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