Migrants staying on a giant barge for asylum seekers will be taken on trips to play cricket, hike in the Dorset countryside and tend local allotments, officials have revealed.
Up to 500 asylum seekers staying on the Bibby Stockholm will also be able to hail free taxis if they miss the last bus back to the barge.
The Home Office believes arranging trips for groups of young men will prevent disorder and groups from hanging around in local communities.
Dorset County Council has arranged a “significant number of activities” for the first group of 50 migrants, who could arrive as early as next week, it is understood.
Leanne Palk, Deputy Director of the Home Office’s asylum accommodation, said: “It is not a floating prison. It is open, it is light, it is airy. People aren’t restricted to just being on the vessel.
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“I know this is within a compound, but we have got a significant number of activities organised by the local council and voluntary organisations for people to engage in.
“What we want here is for people to feel like they are part of a wider community and not restricted to being here.”
Activities organised by Dorset County Council include trips to local festivals, hikes and bike rides in the countryside, visits to local farms and festivals and to tend allotments. They will also be offered the chance to play cricket in the local area.
Migrants staying on the barge will be able to board an hourly bus service – running between 7am and 11pm – to four different destinations along the beach in Weymouth.
They can leave Portland Port at any point by walking – day or night – but have to be escorted by security to the main gate. If they miss the last bus back to the Bibby Stockholm, the asylum seekers will be able to call a free taxi from a local cab firm.
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On the vessel itself, migrants will have access to a 24-hour food service, large TV rooms, a gym and a courtyard which will be kitted out with sports equipment such as football goalposts and basketball hoops.
The gym, once fully set up, will include treadmills, a cycling and rowing machine, a cross-trainer and weights. Officials are also planning to order yoga mats and other “props”.
Asylum seekers will also be served three meals a day in a canteen that can sit 146 people. Dishes on a sample menu include “Asian Roast Beef”, “Oriental Chicken”, “Beef pie”, “Roast Turkey”, and “Egyptian Beef with Potato”.
Migrants will even be given the chance to attend “town hall” events with officials so they can ask for more services to be put on. And they will be given “points” upon arrival that they can spend in a shop on board the vessel.
The Home Office is also paying out £1,900 for NHS services for every migrant staying on the vessel. This will give asylum seekers the same services as locals living in Portland and Weymouth.
The Daily Express understands the Home Office did not want to offer a “gold-plated service” for migrants compared to local GP surgeries. It will be open nine-to-five, five-days a week.
Ms Palk added: “I wouldn’t say that it was a luxury facility to start with but it meets what we require in terms of adequacy. The welcome pack will give them details on how to behave in the community and how to be safe.”
A conference room has also been set up, and can be booked out by migrants. And officials admitted asylum seekers could set up their own barber shops using some of the empty rooms on the vessel.
Every arrival will receive an induction pack setting out the rules on the barge and it includes advice on how to behave in the local community.
Ms Palk said: “We offered them advice not to hang around in large groups of people. There won’t be many opportunities to do that anyway.
“There will be some bus routes out of the port. The bus will take them into Weymouth, whilst we have got small numbers of people on the barge, we will take them to Weymouth but then we will review that and potentially add further locations.
“If somebody misses the last bus, they can contact the reception centre and arrangements will be made. It is a working port, so we need to make sure that they are safe as they go to the exit area. We don’t want people to compromise their safety.”
Migrants arriving back on the vessel will have to pass through airport-style security scanners, including a metal detector. Only six security guards will be on duty on the vessel at any given time, though the port will have additional security in place.
The asylum seekers will share rooms, set up with a bunk-bed, a desk and an en-suite bathroom.
If their application for asylum is not processed within nine months they will be booked back into a hotel room.
But migrants will not have to take part in fire drills, it is understood, amid fears it could scare people traumatised from fleeing war.
The Home Office has today revealed around 3,000 asylum seekers will be housed on barges or in former military sites by this Autumn.
The move comes as part of the Government’s plan to reduce the use of hotels – which the Home Office said costs taxpayers £6 million a day.
Officials would not say how much it would cost to stay on the Bibby Stockholm, insisting only that it is significantly cheaper.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said: “This Government has been clear that those who arrive in the UK illegally should not be housed in expensive hotels.
“Our use of alternative accommodation sites and vessels provide basic and appropriate standards for small boats arrivals while their claims are determined.
“We are providing substantial financial support to the local council and are committed to working with key stakeholders to ensure the Portland vessel and Wethersfield site have as little impact as possible for communities.
“Ultimately, the best way to relieve pressures on communities is to stop the boats in the first place.”
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