A traumatised Syrian asylum seeker has said living on the Bibby Stockholm would remind him of hiding from IS, as lawyers protest against his transfer on to the barge.
With more men arriving on the vessel today, Hoshyar (not his real name) told Sky News about his fight to avoid joining them off the coast of Dorset.
He received notice at the end of July that the government planned to move him out of the hotel in Bournemouth where he’s been living for six months, and on to the barge with 500 other men.
People thought to be asylum seekers boarding the Bibby Stockholm on Tuesday
He was meant to move in on 1 August, a week before the first occupants actually arrived on board.
But through legal aid, he was able to get an intervention, and he’s been granted a reprieve while he waits for news.
“Their argument was about my age, and about the physical conditions and mental conditions,” he said.
“Because we have all run away from war, trauma or conflict and we’re looking for more space; so if you squeezed me in a smaller place, you are putting me back to that small room where I was hiding when ISIS was attacking our area.
“So it would just remind me again of that two metre by two metre room, and ISIS troops are around, and you have to hide.”
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‘Solution not bigger boats’
He fears the IS fighters who are still hunting for him, but he is adamant that accommodation like the Bibby Stockholm is not the solution.
“The solution to the small boat crisis is not bigger boats,” he said.
He says the solution is to fix the backlog, and to allow people like him to work, contribute and support themselves with housing rather than relying on taxpayer-funded hotels.
He came to the UK with a visa and sought asylum in February, and has been waiting in limbo ever since – while doing his best to make Bournemouth his home.
Harjap Singh Bhangal, a solicitor who specialises in immigration and nationality law, told Sky News that even though accommodation is usually a ‘no choice’ system for asylum seekers, lawyers can argue with the Home Office against putting their clients somewhere like the Bibby Stockholm.
‘Asylum seekers can seek legal counsel’
“There is an argument by the lawyers to say ‘well hold on, what is the purpose of putting my person on a barge if he’s been living already outside for eight months, you haven’t deterred him from coming, he’s already here’,” Mr Bhangal said.
“You’re using him as just a showpiece in effect, and you are taking him out of somewhere where he is stable or somewhere he is used to, and has a network, an environment maybe he has even blended in, and you are putting him on a floating detention centre.
“What purpose is that going to serve?”
‘Basic but proper accommodation’
The government hopes the use of the barge and former military bases to house asylum seekers will reduce the cost of hotel bills.
Home Office minister Sarah Dines said those arriving in the country via unauthorised means should have “basic but proper accommodation” and that they “can’t expect to stay in a four-star hotel”.
She claimed hotels were part of the “pull” factor attracting people to the UK.
The government said: “Facilities onboard the vessel will be designed to provide for the essential needs of those accommodated in order to minimise the impact on local communities and local services. This includes the provision of basic healthcare, catering facilities and 24/7 security.”