World (AP)

Barge to house asylum-seekers arrives in UK as Parliament passes controversial migration bill | AP News

Barge to house asylum-seekers arrives in UK as Parliament passes controversial migration bill | AP News

LONDON (AP) — A barge that will house up to 500 asylum-seekers arrived Tuesday in England after Parliament passed its long-debated bill to curb migration.

The Bibby Stockholm was pulled by a tug into Portland after the government’s controversial legislation won passage after overcoming resistance in the House of Lords.

The boat and the bill are both parts of 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.

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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 U.K. 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 U.K. 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 U.K.

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. The government plans to appeal to the U.K. Supreme Court.

The bill was approved after an all-night tussle Monday between the House of Commons, where the governing Conservatives have a majority, and the unelected House of Lords, which can amend but not block legislation.

Elected members of Parliament defeated amendments that would have included protections for modern slavery and child detention limits.

Best of Britain, a group that aims to maintain strong international ties after Brexit, said the bill will deny refugees and asylum-seekers their rights under international law and will lead to more people being detained at taxpayer cost.

“This cruel bill will now give the government the green light to flout international law and mistreat refugees to distract from their own failure to fix the problems they created when ministers closed safe routes to asylum,” Naomi Smith, CEO of Best for Britain, said in a statement. “This policy is not only morally repugnant, it is totally unworkable.”

Simon Murray, the undersecretary of state for the Home Office and member of House of Lords, urged his peers to pass the bill, saying the U.K.’s asylum system was overwhelmed and taxpayers were paying 6 million pounds ($7.8 million) a day to house them.

“If people know there is no way for them to stay in the U.K., they won’t risk their lives and pay criminals thousands of pounds to arrive here illegally,” Murray said. “It is therefore only right that we stop the boats and break the business model of the criminal gangs exploiting vulnerable people.”