Asylum-seekers being housed on the Bibby Stockholm barge are to be given goody bags by locals – including a ‘phone-a-friend’ hotline number if they want to chat.
It had been believed people could have been getting onboard the enormous vessel as soon today, where it is moored in Portland, Dorset.
And in preparation a local friendship crew was at the docks with brown paper bags filled with items they could find useful onboard.
The good-intentioned gifts included shower gel, deodorant, shaving razors, a map and even a reporter-style notebook and pen.
But the most unusual was surely a hotline number families in the area have set up for the new arrivals.
It connects to a mobile phone which will be shared among Portland supporters to answer calls from the migrants.
The bags of items are the brainchild of the Portland Global Friendship Group, which is an offshoot of Stand Up To Racism Dorset.
This postcard features a phone hotline to Portland families the asylum-seekers can ring up
Heather, from Portland Global Friendship Group is seen outside the port with the group’s bags
A spokeswoman, who identified herself only as Heather, said: ‘We formed because there were local residents who wondered what they could do to help the asylum seekers and show the asylum seekers that they are indeed welcome when they arrive.
‘We were trying to think about things that would be useful to them, so we have got toiletries, toothbrushes and toothpastes, shampoo, body washes, razors.
‘We have got a notebook and pen, so they can write things down and take notes for their English lessons.
‘We have got a map of Portland because they don’t know the area and are likely to be very scared when they come here and that will help get them around.
‘And someone has very kindly designed us a postcard and on the back it has got Portland Global Friendship Group and it’s got a contact number for a communal phone we are going to be sharing around Portland residents so they can phone it if they want to meet the community or want to have friendship or support or any help from us.
‘I have campaigned for the barge not to be here, I don’t think it’s the right place for it.
‘I’m against it for two groups of people, I’m against it for the Portland residents, Portland is a very deprived space, there is not many jobs, there’s a big reliance on food banks there’s not the medical services we need, a lot of our community resources like our hospital has mostly been defunded.
The Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge at Portland Port in Dorset, which will house up to 500 people
There are reports of serious fire safety concerns with the barge and fears it could become a ‘floating Grenfell’
‘I’m also against it for the asylum seekers, I don’t think it’s right to be housing them on a barge, I think we should be processing them quickly and efficiently.
‘I’m really worried they are going to receive hate from vigilante groups and even far right groups – I feel very concerned about the asylum seekers.’
It came hours after a government minister refused to say when the first asylum seekers will be housed on the barge.
Richard Holden, a minister at the Department for Transport, this morning said it was still undergoing ‘final checks’.
He conceded he couldn’t ‘put a timeframe’ on when the Bibby Stockholm would be in use.
Downing Street has confirmed the final preparations for the vessel include fire safety checks to ensure it meets with regulations.
It comes amid reports of serious fire safety concerns with the barge and fears it could become a ‘floating Grenfell’.
The vessel has been moored in Portland and it was previously expected an initial group of people would be sent to the accommodation today
Richard Holden, a minister at the Department for Transport, this morning said the Bibby Stockholm barge was still undergoing ‘final checks’
Asked on Sky News this morning when the Bibby Stockholm would be up and running as an accommodation facility for asylum seekers, Mr Holden said: ‘It’s going through its final checks at the moment.
‘It’s right that… whatever accommodation we provide is safe and secure as well. I can’t put a timeframe on it.’
Pressed on whether safety concerns were behind a delay in people being moved ont the barge, Mr Holden replied: ‘It’s going through final checks at the moment. With anything you’d want them to be properly checked out.’
He added: ‘The checks are going to take as long as they’re going to take. It’s important we get these things right.’
The delay to the Bibby Stockholm is the latest setback to Rishi Sunak’s plans to overhaul Britain’s asylum system in the face of the Channel migrant crisis.
The Prime Minister has also seen proposals to send asylum seekers to Rwanda repeatedly delayed due to legal challenges.
Asked if use of the Bibby Stockholm would be delayed as long as the Rwanda policy – first announced more than a year ago – has taken to implement, Mr Holden said: ‘I can’t comment on the ongoing process of checks and things that have to take place but it is my understanding (it is) in its final checks.’