THE UK Government has defended plans to move asylum seekers to ferries and barges, saying it is no different to the Scottish Government’s use of cruise ships to accommodate Ukrainian refugees.

Alison Thewliss, the SNP Home Affairs spokesperson, called the comparison pathetic, misleading and offensive. 

She said the Home Office’s proposals were closer to the internment camps used during the second world war. 

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Immigration minister Robert Jenrick unveiled the policy in the Commons on Wednesday. 

The Home Office is keen to save some of the £6.2 million spent every day on providing hotel rooms for asylum seekers. Reports suggest that currently more than 51,000 people are currently being housed in 395 hotels.

Mr Jenrick told the Commons that three sites including two ex-military bases will be used as migrant housing in a bid to cut down on hotel use.

"Accommodation for migrants should meet essential living needs and nothing more, because we cannot risk becoming a magnet for the millions of people who are displaced and seeking better economic prospects," he added.

Despite media reports suggesting vessels had already been purchased, he would only say the government was "exploring the possibility" of using ferries.

The immigration minister told the Commons: “In addition, the Prime Minister is showing leadership on this issue by bringing forward proposals to provide accommodation at barracks in Catterick Garrison in his constituency.

“And we are continuing to explore the possibility of accommodating migrants in vessels, as they are in Scotland and in the Netherlands.”

Ms Thewliss shouted, “It is not the same.”

In a bid to find suitable accommodation for some of the tens of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s invasion, the Scottish Government hired cruise liners, MS Ambition, moored in Glasgow and MS Victoria, docked in Edinburgh.

Mr Jenrick said he “passed no criticism” of the Scottish Government for using ferries, adding: “It appears to have worked relatively successfully in the circumstances so I think it’s an option worthy of consideration.

“With respect to meeting our domestic and international law obligations, of course we’re intending to do so and any accommodation we bring forward will be decent and legal.”

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In her question to the minister, Ms Thewliss said: ”Britain has a historical form in the use of internment camps and it's despicable that this government is intent on bringing them back in 2023. 

“His pathetic attempt to draw comparisons between the use of cruise ships to accommodate Ukrainians is as offensive as it is misleading.” 

She said the ships came with “wraparound support” with local government, NHS, schools and community integration. 

“His plan is a prison ship designed as a deterrent,” she added. 

The SNP said the real issue for the Home Office was the backlog in dealing with cases. “He knows that I've got constituents waiting six months, 10 months, 14 months, 18 months, 20 months and more for a decision from the Home Office. When will he stop wasting money on headlines, and instead tackle the real crisis and fix the backlog?”

SNP MP Joanna Cherry said the government’s proposals were “highly reminiscent of the internment camps for refugees in the BBC series Years And Years, which was on during lockdown.”

“If you didn’t see it, it was really about the decline of modern Britain and it ended with the election of a fascist populist prime minister” she said.

Ms Cherry also warned that placing refugees from other countries into “the sort of poor-quality accommodation that he’s describing” could see the UK face a claim of racial discrimination under article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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Some of the fiercest criticism of the proposals came from Mr Jenrick’s own benches. 

Former Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would not support plans to use RAF Wethersfield, near her constituency, as accommodation. 

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has also previously criticised plans to house people at the site in Essex.

Conservative former minister Sir Edward Leigh warned of a legal challenge over plans for a detention centre at RAF Scampton.

The MP for Gainsborough told the Commons: “Although the minister did not mention RAF Scampton by name, we assume that that is the base in Lincolnshire he is referring to.

“I can inform him that the moment this is confirmed the local authority West Lindsey will issue an immediate judicial review and injunction against this thoroughly bad decision which is not based on good governance, but the politics of trying to do something.”