Downing Street has backed Tory deputy chairman Lee Anderson after he said that asylum seekers who don’t want to be housed on a barge should “f**k off back to France”.
The government is currently facing criticism over its move to house asylum seekers on the Bibby Stockholm barge, moored in Dorset, which has been described as a “deathtrap” by the Fire Brigade Union.
Twenty asylum seekers were granted last-minute reprieve from boarding Bibby Stockholm on Monday (7 August), following the first 15 people moving into the accommodation, where they will remain for at least 18 months.
Those who did not board were told that failing to take up the accommodation would see support from the Home Office ceased.
In light of this, Anderson told Express.co.uk: “If they don’t like barges then they should f**k off back to France.
“I think people have just had enough.
“These people come across the Channel in small boats… if they don’t like the conditions they are housed in here then they should go back to France, or better not come at all in the first place.”
Deputy chair of the Conservative Party, Lee Anderson. (Parliament portrait)
Government says Lee Anderson’s ‘indignation well placed’
Freedom from Torture, a refugee charity, told Sky News the “dehumanising and inflammatory” language used by Anderson puts people seeking sanctuary in the UK at “real risk”.
When asked if it backed Anderson’s remarks, No 10 pointed to comments made by justice secretary Alex Chalk, who in an interview with LBC said the Ashfield MP’s “indignation is well placed”.
“The justice secretary was speaking on behalf of the government. That is the response,” the spokesperson told Sky News.
Chalk told LBC: “Lee Anderson expresses the righteous indignation of the British people. Yes, he does it in salty terms, that’s his style, but his indignation is well placed.
“People should claim asylum in the first country – it’s not like there should be an open shopping list of where you want to go,” he said.
Chalk’s comments have been condemned by mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who accused the government of stoking division, while the Lib Dems said his defence of Anderson is “toe-curling” and “another sign of how weak this government has become”.
Lib Dem home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said: “Lifelong Conservative voters expect decent and respectful political debate, something completely lacking amongst Conservative MPs.
“This Conservative government has made a complete hash of our asylum system after Priti Patel blocked resources to deal with the record 180,000 backlog in cases. This is a mess of their own making.”
An open letter, signed by 57 organisations and by activists, has called on the government not to house refugees on its “barbaric” barge, where – LGBTQ+ charities say – queer people will be particularly at risk of harm.
The vessel, which arrived at the Isle of Portland on the coast of Dorset on 18 July, is part of prime minister Rishi Sunak and home secretary Suella Braverman’s heavily criticised plan to crack down on asylum seekers.
This follows the Illegal Migration Bill, which received royal assent on 20 July.
The 222-bedroom, three-storey barge, aims to house people currently staying in hotels and will initially hold 50 single men.