MIGRANTS would be given “hotel-style” room service while being held on two giant ferries out at sea, The Sun can reveal.
And plans put before Home Office ministers reveal one migrant staying in a cabin alone would cost taxpayers up to £140 a NIGHT.
Details of a briefing given by officials last month show they have already identified two vessels that fit the bill. One is the huge Estonian-owned Silja Europa cruise ship, designed to hold 3,000 passengers and built in 1993.
The 200m craft boasts executive and deluxe suites, beauty salons, three restaurants, coffee bars, a theatre, five bars and a disco. Mandarins believe the Europa, which has been halted from its usual Helsinki to Tallinn route since September, could safely house around 1,400 migrants.
Another ship is the smaller, Italian-owned GNV Splendid. The roll-on, roll-off ferry is based in Palermo but has been used as a floating hospital ship in Genoa during the first Covid-19 wave in Italy.
It can carry 2,200 passengers but officials believe it might hold around 400 migrants if the go-ahead is given to buy it. Last month The Sun told how the plan to use disused ferries to tackle the surge in illegal cross-Channel migration was moving forward. And sources say it is now so well-advanced that outsourcing giant Serco has already been discussed as a contender to run the operation.
No mooring site has yet been agreed, but the two vessels could be anchored off Portsmouth. And shuttles could run between them and the shore to process the migrants’ asylum and immigration claims. The Sun understands any migrants held on board ships out at sea would not be detained under immigration powers.
That would mean they would be free to roam the vessel at will in safety. A source said: “The advantage is that they would be kept securely offshore in relative comfort, but with no danger of absconding.”
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Officials predict legal challenges from human rights charities and campaign groups in the coming months. But they are thought to be confident the plans will ultimately get the green light.
Other ferry operators, like Stena, have also been assessed – with plans to raise the capacity for holding migrants offshore by up to another 800 people. More than 5,000 migrants have arrived in small boats so far this year, more than double the number in the whole of 2019.
And Home Secretary Priti Patel vowed to revamp the “broken” asylum system during the Tory party conference. A Home Office spokesman said: “We will continue to examine all safe, legal and practical measures to effectively deter illegal migration.”
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