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Saturday, 29 June, 2002, 04:22 GMT 05:22 UK
Barges plan for asylum seekers
Throckmorton air base: Proposed site for asylum-seekers' holding centre
Barges could be an alternative to rural asylum centres
Asylum seekers could be housed on barges in Britain as they are in the Netherlands, believe an immigration worker and Tory MP.

The chief executive of the independent Immigration Advisory Centre, Keith Best, and MP for Worcestershire Mid Peter Luff, visited the Netherlands to find out more about the accommodation.

The trip came in the wake of controversy in Britain about government plans to build new accommodation centres for large numbers of asylum seekers in rural areas.


It's rather like student accommodation - it's not luxurious but it's certainly comfortable

Keith Best
Mr Best was impressed by the conditions on board.

"I think this could provide part of the solution to the difficulties that we've got in trying to find accommodation for asylum seekers in the UK.

"It's a cheap option but it's a comfortable one for people. It's rather like student accommodation - it's not luxurious but it's certainly comfortable, they've got TVs in their rooms.

"There's some controversy about the quality of the food but that's a local issue, that can be sorted out."

'Flexibility'

Mr Luff said the barge idea presented a useful alternative to the type of centres the government is proposing to build.

"The glorious thing about these is you can put them virtually anywhere you like...near any major town or city which has a port or any kind of harbour facility.

"There's a lot of flexibility, you can move them around and trial them in different locations.

"But I'm clear from what I've heard today, you do need to be near a major town or city."

Mr Best said the regime on the barges appeared to be making the residents relatively happy and contented.

'Contentment'

"It's comfortable in so far as there's safeguards taken for trying to make sure that people are not left on their own, that they do have somebody else to help them.


Yes of course it's spartan, but I don't think asylum seekers would expect anything else

Keith Best

"What's interesting here is that they do mix nationalities very widely, and they've found that has reduced tensions which you might otherwise get from having large numbers of one nationality.

"Yes of course it's spartan, but I don't think asylum seekers would expect anything else, quite frankly.

"And it's certainly preferable to the sort of conditions that they've had to come from and the persecution from which they've been fleeing."

"Talking to the people here... there is a considerable degree of contentment, if that's the right word for people who've gone through what they have to flee from persecution.

"People are courteous, they greet you, they say hello, they say 'excuse me' when they're passing you in the corridor, they're laughing with one another - this is not full of very malcontented people."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mike Thomson
"The government has yet to show any interest in bringing barges to Britain"
Conservative MP Peter Luff
"The barges are certainly humane"
Immigration Advisory Services Keith Best
"We want to see a range of different options"
Refugee Council's Margaret Lally
"We would prefer the government to focus on making existing things work"

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26 Jun 02 | UK Politics
26 Jun 02 | UK Politics
21 Jun 02 | UK Politics
18 Jun 02 | UK Politics
28 May 02 | UK Politics
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