An accommodation barge has arrived at the port where it will house asylum seekers, as critics deem the Government’s migration plans “immoral and cruel” with them poised to become law.

Bibby Stockholm was met by protesters as it was pulled by a tug into Dorset’s Portland Port on Tuesday morning, with the proposals to use it to house 500 migrants under Rishi Sunak’s bid to “stop the boats” crossing the Channel a month behind schedule.

The barge’s arrival came after a night of drama in which the Tory frontbench saw off changes being sought by peers to the Illegal Migration Bill, including modern slavery protections and child detention limits.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who has been a strident critic of the Bill, also dropped his demand for a statement on tackling the refugee problem and human trafficking to the UK, after a similar proposal was rejected by MPs.

The cessation of the stand-off between the unelected chamber and MPs paves the way for the Bill to receive royal assent.

The reforms are a key part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s bid to deter people from making hazardous Channel crossings.

Protesters arguing
Rival protesters argue in Portland in Dorset after the Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge arrived (Ben Birchall/PA)

They will prevent people from claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive through unauthorised means.

The Government also hopes the changes will ensure detained people are promptly removed, either to their home country or a third country such as Rwanda, which is currently the subject of a legal challenge.

The Bill encountered fierce opposition in the upper chamber, which was accused of trying to “drive a coach and horses” through the contentious plans.

Home Office minister Lord Murray of Blidworth said the number of small boat arrivals had “overwhelmed” the UK’s asylum system and was costing taxpayers £6 million a day to provide accommodation.

He told peers: “With over 45,000 people making dangerous Channel crossings last year this is simply no longer sustainable.

“If people know there is no way for them to stay in the UK, they won’t risk their lives and pay criminals thousands of pounds to arrive here illegally.

“It is therefore only right that we stop the boats and break the business model of the criminal gangs exploiting vulnerable people, ultimately enabling the Government to have greater capacity to provide a safe haven for those at risk of war and persecution.”

Bibby Stockholm
The first asylum seekers are expected to board the Bibby Stockholm later this month (Ben Birchall/PA)

Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, led national and international outrage at the Bill and said: “For decades, the UK has provided refuge to those in need, in line with its international obligations – a tradition of which it has been rightly proud.

“This new legislation significantly erodes the legal framework that has protected so many, exposing refugees to grave risks in breach of international law.”

Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “Carrying out removals under these circumstances is contrary to prohibitions of refoulement and collective expulsions, rights to due process, to family and private life, and the principle of best interests of children concerned.”

Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said: “This new law is a con which will only make the Tories’ asylum chaos worse. It fails to tackle the criminal smuggler gangs and makes it easier for traffickers.

“And it cancels asylum decision making with no return agreements in place so it will just increase the asylum backlog with even more people in costly hotels.

“They have lost all common sense and decency.”

Alex Fraser, British Red Cross’s UK director for refugee support, said: “This is a dark day that will cause a wave of fear and uncertainty for people seeking protection from violence and persecution.

“Ultimately, this law makes it impossible for the vast majority of men, women and children to claim asylum in the UK. It will leave many people, from places like Sudan and Syria, in detention, destitution and permanent limbo.”

Sarah Teather, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service UK, said: “The Illegal Migration Bill drags any sense of the UK’s moral leadership on the world stage headlong into a gutter of hate.

“In it, we have abandoned the principle of refugee protection, and denied that we have a duty to anyone else in the world.

“We haven’t even done this to achieve any useful end, but revelled in sheer performative cruelty.”

Migrant accommodation
Charities and politicians have criticised the government’s plan to use the barge (Ben Birchall/PA)

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s chief executive, said: “Disqualifying people’s asylum claims en masse regardless of the strength of their case is a blatant assault on international law and is a failure of UK leadership.

“Ministers are using vulnerable and traumatised people for political ends – feeding the public misinformation about asylum issues, stoking resentment and division, and then pushing through ever more extreme measures to perpetuate the same policies that keep doing so much harm.”

A Liberty spokesman said: “The Act will force people into situations that threaten their lives – whether by placing children in detention or sending people off to countries where their lives might be at grave risk.”

Sonya Sceats, chief executive at Freedom from Torture, said: “We know that this Bill is deeply immoral and will be damned by history. No matter who we are, or where we come from, we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “This is an important part of our work to stop the boats, obviously it needs to be paired with the Rwanda partnership, which is being challenged in the courts.

“But it’s right that we have this power in place so it can be utilised swiftly and we remain confident we will be successful in the challenge in the Supreme Court.”

The spokesman said when the Bill gets Royal Assent it will make “powers available” to Home Secretary Suella Braverman to start detaining people but does not “require” the move.

The Bibby barge left Falmouth, Cornwall, on Monday after undergoing work to prepare it for its new role.

But locals in Dorset have raised concerns about the Portland site being used to house asylum seekers and a band of placard-waving protesters gathered at the port’s gate to meet the barge’s arrival.

Migrant accommodation
Protesters gathered at the port’s gate to meet the Bibby Stockholm when it arrived (Ben Birchall/PA)

Resident Lorraine Beckett said: “It’s not the right place to be homing all of these people and it’s not right for Portland because we do not have the infrastructure on the island for the extra people coming in so that’s why I feel strongly by it.

Downing Street defended the use of barges to house migrants, insisting it was a cheaper alternative to housing them in hotels.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It’s undergoing final inspections upon arrival.

“That’s the last part of the process ahead of the first group of asylum seekers moving into the vessel later this month.”

Meanwhile, the Home Office said one man was being treated for scabies at Wethersfield Airfield in Essex, which came into use as asylum seeker accommodation last week.