Glasgow City Council has claimed that agents working for the Home Office have been “exploring a potential site” for an asylum barge in the city.

Yesterday, Susan Aitken, the SNP leader of the local authority, said she would simply not consent to any plea from the UK Government to host the vessel.

However, the Home Office said they did not recognise the councillor’s claims.

The row came as the first asylum seekers arrived on the controversial Bibby Stockholm barge moored in Portland Port, Dorset.

Fifteen people boarded the vessel yesterday afternoon. The 47-year-old barge is ultimately expected to hold around 500.

READ MORE: Labour would house asylum seekers on barges for 'very short' time

The vessel is part of a cost-cutting measure, as the government seeks to reduce the £5.5m spent a day on hotel bills for the people waiting for a decision on their asylum claims.

The Home Office has so far struggled to find places to berth the ships.

Edinburgh has already knocked back a request for an old cruise ship to be used, with the leader of the council, Cammy Day, describing it as “floating prison” for asylum seekers.

Taking to Twitter on Monday, Councillor Aitken, said: “The UK government wants @GlasgowCC to give consent to an asylum barge being sited in the city. We will not give it.

“Glasgow’s communities are proud to be beacons of support and integration for asylum seekers & refugees. This is the polar opposite of that.”

The tweet was shared by First Minister Humza Yousaf.

A spokesman for the council later said: “The council was made aware that agents working on behalf of the Home Office were exploring a potential site for a barge within Glasgow.

“The council has made it clear to the Home Office that it does not support such a move.”

READ MORE: Council claim Home Office wants to locate asylum barge in Glasgow

Councillor Aitken’s comments were welcomed by Sabir Zazai, the CEO of the Scottish Refugee Council.

He tweeted: "These are our friends. These are our neighbours. We certainly don't want them on a floating prison."

The Home Office declined to comment, though a source insisted they were not having conversations around a barge in Glasgow. 

The Bibby Stockholm has been beset by difficulties and delays.

Solicitors acting on behalf of some of those expected to be moved to the barge have expressed concerns over safety, including fire hazards. The Fire Brigades Union has described the vessel as a “potential death trap.”

A draft “outbreak management plan” for the barge released after a freedom of information request to NHS Dorset, highlighted a number of infectious diseases and conditions that may arise on Bibby Stockholm including diphtheria, TB, legionnaires’ disease, norovirus, salmonella and scabies.

There are also fears about threats from the far-right.

While the first migrants boarded the Bibby Stockholm yesterday, some were granted a last-minute reprieve after legal challenges.

Care4Calais said around 20 asylum seekers did not board the barge as planned because their transfers were “cancelled” after lawyers challenged the decisions.

In a series of legal letters to the Home Office, solicitors raised concerns about the suitability of the accommodation for people with disabilities, mental and physical health problems as well as those who had fled torture and persecution, according to the refugee charity.

Care4Calais chief executive Steve Smith said: “None of the asylum seekers we are supporting have gone to the Bibby Stockholm today as legal representatives have had their transfers cancelled.

“Amongst our clients are people who are disabled, who have survived torture and modern slavery and who have had traumatic experiences at sea. To house any human being in a ‘quasi floating prison’ like the Bibby Stockholm is inhumane. To try and do so with this group of people is unbelievably cruel. Even just receiving the notices is causing them a great deal of anxiety.”

READ MORE: UNSPUN: The atrocious backlog behind barge plea to Glasgow

Earlier in the day, 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 later told LBC: “It is a safe place for people to live and stay. It is a very complex situation. Let us just be clear that the government is determined to use barges such as this one to make sure we have somewhere which is proper — rudimentary but proper — accommodation for migrants.”

During her interviews, the minister also suggested the Bibby Stockholm could hold around 500 men by the end of the week.

But Downing Street appeared to suggest she had misspoken, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman saying that while “no limit” has been set on how many people will board the barge this week, the Government’s plan is to reach the capacity “over time”, adding: “I don’t think we are aiming to do it by the weekend.”

It all comes during the Tory government’s “small boats week" as the Prime Minister attempts to meet his promise made at the start of the year to tackle migrants crossing the Channel.

More than 15,000 people have made the journey to the UK so far this year.

Some 339 people made the journey on Friday and Saturday after an eight-day hiatus amid poor weather conditions at sea, taking the provisional total for 2023 to date to 15,071.

According to the Home Office, no crossings were recorded on Sunday.

Meanwhile, other measures being considered to curb Channel crossings include the revival of previously-dropped plans to send asylum seekers to Ascension.

The proposals to use the British Overseas Territory are apparently being considered by ministers and officials as a “Plan B” if the Rwanda scheme fails.

Asked why the Ascension Island plan is being reconsidered after seemingly being rejected by Boris Johnson’s government, Ms Dines said “times change”.