Two new barges to house up to 1,000 migrants – Sunakon June 5, 2023 at 12:03 pm

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Rishi Sunak said the numbers of people crossing the Channel in small boats is down by around a fifth since last year.

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Two new barges have been purchased to house up to 1,000 migrants, the prime minister has announced, as he said plans to tackle small boats crossing the Channel are working.

Rishi Sunak said the location of the new barges will be announced soon.

It comes as the PM said the numbers making the crossing by small boats were down by a fifth since last year.

He said a returns deal with Albania had led to 1,800 people being sent back to the country.

The first barge to hold asylum seekers is due to dock in Portland Port this month, and will house 500 adult males claiming asylum in the UK.

Mr Sunak said the barges “will relieve pressure on local communities” and spaces in hotels being used to house migrants.

Before the barges arrive, the government will do “extensive engagement with local communities” Mr Sunak added.

On Sunday, dozens of protesters gathered around Portland port to ahead of the arrival the Bibby Stockolm barge, claiming the location was chosen without consulting locals.

Speaking in Kent, Mr Sunak said his plan to stop small boat crossings “is starting to work”.

Mr Sunak said crossings were down 20% compared to last year. This is compared to a 30% increase in the number of migrants entering the rest of Europe illegally over the same period.

A revised deal with the French authorities to stop migrant crossings prevented 33,000 illegal crossings last year, Mr Sunak added.

Under the new agreement, signed by Home Secretary Suella Braverman in November, the UK paid France £63m this year to invest in CCTV, policing and detention centres in French ports to try and prevent crossings. The prime minister added: “With grit and determination, the government can fix this and we are using every tool at our disposal.”

And Mr Sunak said the UK had gone from accepting about one in five Albanian asylum cases to just one in 50.

“So far this year, the number of Albanian small boat arrivals has fallen by almost 90%,” he said.

In total, 45,755 migrants crossed the Channel in 2022, the highest number since figures began to be collected in 2018.

Crossings are heavily influenced by the weather and the summer months typically see higher numbers making the journey.

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