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Alex Chalk admits 15 asylum seekers on board Bibby Stockholm is ‘frustrating’

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Minister backs Lee Anderson's 'righteous indignation' over illegal migrants

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has admitted it is “frustrating” only 15 migrants have been moved onto the Bibby Stockholm.

Mr Chalk said the British public “expect” the Government to find cheaper accommodation for around 50,000 asylum seekers currently in hotels.

Some 20 asylum seekers were given a last-minute reprieve from boarding the Bibby Stockholm after legal challenges.

But left-wing campaigners were today gearing up for a fresh legal fight with the Government over the barge – a key plank of Rishi Sunak’s plan to reduce the £6 million-per-day hotel bill.

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Refugee support charity Care4Calais sent out desperate emails calling for supporters to fund more attempts to block asylum seekers being moved onto the barge.

In an email – seen by the Daily Express – the refugee charity said: “We’ve stopped 20 refugees from boarding with the resources we have. But with hundreds of refugees set to move into the barge, we simply can’t offer our help to everyone who needs us without your support.

“Will you chip in a few pounds today to help make sure that as many refugees as possible do not board the barge?”

The charity also told supporters: “With your support we can ensure even more refugees are kept on land.

“Refugees should be rebuilding their lives in communities, not warehoused in barges and barracks. That’s why we’re working hard to stop refugees from boarding the barge in the first place, by ensuring refugees can access lawyers who will issue legal challenges on their behalf.”

Care4Calais on Monday bragged lawyers representing them had blocked 20 migrants from being moved onto the barge. 

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But Mr Chalk insisted migrants – many of whom crossed the Channel in small boats – must not be able to choose where they stay in the UK.

He said: “It’s not about choice, it’s about reasonable provision. We are not saying take your pick,” he said. “What is perfectly legal is for the British people to say ‘this is what we are offering’.

“It’s not four-star accommodation but it’s perfectly safe and complies with fire safety regulations. It’s spartan. It’s a bit austere but frankly that is not unreasonable.”

“It’s perfectly reasonable for the British people to say we are a fair country. What that means is that we will offer accommodation that is unashamedly basic but we are not going to be exploited and have to pay £6 million a day, £2 billion a year. That’s money that can’t be spent on the priorities of the British people,” he said.

Mr Chalk also revealed the backlog of asylum cases has fallen by 17,000 over “recent weeks” after Home Office figures revealed more than 50,000 people were staying in hotels in June.

The Justice Secretary was asked about the number of migrants currently being housed in hotel accommodation after official data showed it had hit 50,546 in June – up by around 10,000 from December.

“In terms of the backlog that you refer to, that backlog is coming down, so it’s down by 17,000 over recent weeks, the number of decisions up by 35 per cent,” he told GB News.

Migrants who had a “severe fear of the sea” were among 20 who avoided being moved onto the Bibby Stockholm on Monday.

Government sources said they could have their asylum support withdrawn if they did not set foot on the barge.

Asked if it would be legal to remove accommodation support, Mr Chalk said: “That’s something the courts would have to consider. It’s unlikely it would be illegal to do so but all cases are considered on their facts.”

The Government is also cracking down on lawyers helping migrants to make up asylum claims.

Mr Chalk warned they are doing “terrible damage to the reputation of lawyers”. 

He said: “The Law Society is right that it’s a tiny minority of lawyers and the overwhelming majority of lawyers in this country do an extremely important job.

“However, there is a small minority that are doing terrible damage, not just because they’re coming up with false claims which means that people are remaining here who ought not to remain here, but doing terrible damage to the reputation of lawyers. And it is absolutely right that we crack down on them.”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman yesterday chaired the first meeting of a new taskforce set up to go after what she described as “crooked” lawyers.

The Professional Enablers Taskforce will identify suspicious activity among asylum claims, gather evidence and hand it to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The Home Office wants to significantly increase the number of lawyers prosecuted for helping migrants file fake asylum claims.

They could be jailed for life, under the crackdown.

The Home Secretary declared: “Lawyers who game our asylum system by lying are a stain on the legal profession. Today I chaired a roundtable with Alex Chalk, regulators and members of our new taskforce to crack down on rogue lawyers and support more prosecutions.”

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