BARGES and disused military bases could be used by a Labour government to house asylum seekers while the backlog in cases is being cleared, the shadow home secretary has indicated.

Yvette Cooper on Monday declined to commit to scrapping the Tory Government policy, which has been condemned by refugee groups, if her party seizes power at the next general election.

Professor Alison Phipps, Unesco chair for refugee integration at the University of Glasgow, said using this type of accommodation "is taking the U.K. back light years on its international and human rights obligations". 

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Instead, Cooper said Labour would work to “rapidly clear” the decisions backlog that has spiralled under the Tory Government before reverting to traditional asylum accommodation.

Cooper’s comments came as the Bibby Stockholm barge resumed its delayed journey to Portland Port, in Dorset, where it will house around 500 asylum seekers.

She made it clear she thinks the Government’s “failure” to deal with the asylum system may be further “increasing the backlog”, which hit a record high of more than 172,000 cases.

After a speech in central London, she was pressed by reporters on if she would immediately end the use of barges and military bases to hold migrants, Cooper said: “We will take action to clear the backlog.

The National: The Bibby Stockholm bargeThe Bibby Stockholm barge (Image: PA)

“We’ll have to address what we inherit at that time because at the moment it is so chaotic what the Government is doing.”

She added: “What we want to see is the backlog cleared so that the Government doesn’t need to use the hotels or other alternatives and we can simply focus on the long-standing asylum accommodation that has always been there.”

Bibby Stockholm was a month behind schedule as it left Falmouth, Cornwall, where it was undergoing work to house migrants in Dorset, despite local opposition.

The use of RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire and the Wethersfield base in Essex also face legal action.

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Later on Monday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman will come under further pressure to change their plans to “stop the boats”.

MPs will be considering amendments to the Illegal Migration Bill proposed by the House of Lords to limit the detention of children and add modern slavery protections.

Peers have inflicted a string of defeats on the much-criticised legislation during a parliamentary “ping-pong” tussle over the Bill until an agreement is reached.

The National:

Phipps (pictured above) said: "Any political party contemplating any change which uses this kind of accommodation is taking the U.K. back light years on its international and human rights obligations.

"Every single piece of research demonstrates that integration as a holistic process needs people to live in communities not camps or barracks or with curtailed movement.

"Seeking asylum is a human right. The country manifestly needs a clear, universal social housing policy."