First look at UK barge to hold up to 500 asylum seekers after controversial bill gets green light

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Access was granted on Friday to tour a vessel that will house up to 500 asylum-seekers in England after the UK Parliament passed its long-debated bill to curb migration.

The barge, Bibby Stockholm, was pulled by a tug into Portland harbour on Tuesday, off the southwest coast of England, after the government’s controversial legislation overcame resistance in the House of Lords and was passed.

The vessel and the bill are both parts of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s strategy to stop migrants from making risky English Channel crossings in small boats.

The legislation will become law after receiving the assent of King Charles III.

The Conservative government has pledged to “stop the boats” – overcrowded dinghies and other small craft that cross from northern France carrying migrants who hope to live in the UK.

More than 45,000 people crossed the Channel to Britain in 2022; several died in the attempt.

The bill is intended to deter those journeys and will prevent migrants from claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive illegally.

Under the legislation, those caught will be sent back home or deported to another safe country and banned from ever re-entering the UK.

The government planned to send some of those who arrive without authorization to Rwanda, but last month the Court of Appeal ruled it was illegal.

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The government is appealing the ruling to the UK Supreme Court.

Sunak cheered the passage of the bill but said the government must prevail at the higher court for the law to function properly.

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