Public Letter to PD Ports: No Floating Prisons on the Tees

In early June, reports in the Guardian suggested that the Government is considering plans to use a barge to accommodate people seeking asylum at Teesport.
In response, people across Teesside, including local refugee organisations, councillors and residents, have signed a joint public letter to PD Ports, the owner of Teesport, calling on them to take no part in any plans to create a floating prison on the Tees. The full text of the letter and list of signatories is below.
For the attention of Frans Calje, CEO and Jerry Hopkinson, Executive Chairman, PD Ports

Dear Mr Calje and Mr Hopkinson,

We are writing following recent reports that the Home Office is considering using a barge to accommodate people seeking asylum at Teesport. We urge PD Ports not to take any part in plans to create a floating prison on the Tees, and join the Leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council and local MPs in opposing this proposal.

It is imperative that no deal is done to place people seeking asylum in any facility at Teesport.  People seeking asylum should be able to live as members of our communities while they wait for a decision on their asylum claim, not warehoused in barges or ships. 

Placing hundreds or thousands of people in a vessel at Teesport would cause significant harm to people fleeing war and persecution. Many people may have been forced to make traumatic journeys over sea, and using ships or barges as accommodation risks retraumatising vulnerable people. The use of similar facilities in other countries have resulted in human rights violations and humanitarian crises, with a typhoid outbreak and reports of mistreatment and deaths on ships in the Netherlands.

It is likely that the security measures required by Teesport’s status as a Freeport would severely limit people’s ability to leave the site, meaning people would effectively be detained. Current Government plans to vastly increase the detention of people seeking asylum also mean that it is possible that any vessel used for accommodation in the short-term could formally become a detention facility, in contravention of the UK’s international obligations.

The significant harm caused by segregating people seeking asylum from the community has been well evidenced in reports from current institutional asylum accommodation, and by a wealth of research on detention-like conditions. Asylum accommodation has long been characterised by a lack of local consultation and resourcing, as well as inadequate healthcare and screening for vulnerabilities. People seeking asylum are effectively banned from working, and are kept in limbo for months or even years on minimal levels of asylum support. All too often, people are only able to access the support and services they need via extremely stretched voluntary organisations.

Across Teesside, voluntary services are already stretched to capacity largely thanks to the Government’s extensive mismanagement of the asylum system. It would be impossible to step up the support and services that a barge at Teesport would require. In Birkenhead, Peel Ports have recently refused to further consider similar plans for a barge as they could “not see any conceivable scenario” in which local services would be “able to provide the necessary support”. We urge you to follow suit.

We understand that PD Ports lists respect, consideration and trust among your key values, and we ask that you stand by those principles. Portland Port and Bibby Marine have undermined their stated values by agreeing to allow the Bibby Stockholm to be used to warehouse people seeking refuge in Dorset. We urge you not to make the same mistake, and we call on PD Ports to refuse to enter into any similar agreements at Teesport. 


Anna Lewis, CEO, Open Door North East

Pat Martin, Chair, Methodist Asylum Project (MAP) Middlesbrough

Satti Collins, Chair, Tees Valley of Sanctuary

Rev Jonathan Edwards, Minister, South Bank Baptist Church

Euphrasia Makaure, CEO, One Community Link

Dr Mohamed Nasreldin, Director, North of England Refugee Service

Jennifer Laws, Campaigns Manager NE, Asylum Matters

Clare Hurst, Deputy Centre Director, North East Law Centre

Barbara Hungin, Chair, Justice First

Duncan McAuley, CEO, Action Foundation

Rachel Wing, Treasurer, Refugee and Asylum Seeker Project Stockton on Tees

Heather Petch OBE, Executive Director, Refugee Futures

Peter J Chapman, Co-ordinator for Refugee and Asylum Seeker Development, Stockton Baptist Church

Bini Araia, Projects Manager, Investing in People and Culture (IPC)

Paul Catterall, Network Development Coordinator, NACCOM

Susan Mansaray, Director, Purple Rose CIC

Emma Howitt, CEO, Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind

Jane Cuthbert, Director, Whippet Up CIC

Pete Widlinski, Chair, Mary Thompson Fund

Christine Eddowes, Chair, Hartlepool Peace and Justice Group

Iain Robertson, Treasurer, North East Coalition for Asylum and Refugee Rights

Phil Muriel, Interpreter, Translator & Trainer, Franca Linguistics

Cllr Alex Brown, Leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council

Cllr Adam Brook, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council

Cllr Neil Bendelow, South Bank Ward, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council

Cllr Izzy Attwood, South Bank Ward, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council

Cllr Robert Clark, Teesville Ward, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council

Cllr Lynne Rynn, Coatham Ward, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council

Cllr Luke Myer, Cabinet Member for Children, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council

Cllr Brenda Harrison, Labour Leader and Cllr for De Bruce Ward, Hartlepool Borough Council

Cllr Philippa Storey, Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Education, Middlesbrough Borough Council

Andy McDonald MP

Terence Drainey, Bishop of Middlesbrough

Alan Docherty, Secretary, Darlington TUC

Pat McCourt, Regional Officer, Unite the Union

Fazia Hussain-Brown, Regional Officer, Unite the Union, Middlesbrough

Rachel Tempest, Branch Steward Darlington, Unison 

Sol Gamsu, Branch President, Durham University University and Colleges Union

Tony Dowling, NEU delegate, Gateshead TUC

Rosamond Carling, Yarm

Steven Howe, Hartlepool

Anioke Chinedu Michael, Stockton-on-Tees

Bilal, Stockton-on-Tees

Ian Jeffrey, Redcar and Cleveland

Sally Capes, Staithes

Thomas Manning, Member of Tees and Hartlepool Yacht Club, Stockton-on-Tees

Mark Askew, Stockton-on-Tees

Alie Mansaray, Stockton-on-Tees

Ian Holtby, New Marske, Redcar and Cleveland

Yacouba Traore, Middlesbrough

Carolyn Lithgo, Hartlepool

Margaret Nakirembe Kimbugwe, Stockton-on-Tees

Richard Good, Richmond

John Briggs, Guisborough

Graeme Boagey, Middlesbrough

Elizabeth Lithgo, Hartlepool

Ruth Smith, Harrogate

Amy Clifford, Darlington

Olivia Chambers, Cambridge

Veronica Wallace, Fairford

Paul Williams. Local Doctor, Stockton-on-Tees

Wendy Peacock, Stockton-on-Tees

Patricia Jay, York

Chris Peer, West Sussex

Joan Peer

Helen Weir, Great Ayton

Frank Maidens, Saltburn by the Sea

Joanne Mitchell, Guisborough

Alison McManus, Durham

Nicholas, Researcher, Durham University

Michael Adams, Darlington

Jane Wistow, Hartlepool

Helen Charnley, Newcastle

Mwenza Bell, Newcastle

Margaret Hinman, Swainby

Ric Crossman, Associate Professor, Durham University

Dr Stephanie Mulrine, Research Associate, Newcastle University

Sherene Meir, Newcastle 

Richard Hawkins, Great Ayton

Stefano Cremonesi, Durham

Catherine Hughes, High Peak Stand Up to Racism 

Jackie Fearnley, Global Campaign for Peace and Justice in Cameroon

Sally Young, Newcastle

Anna Judson, Durham

Martin Jones, Professor of International Human Rights Law, Stanhope

Alan Theasby, former shipyard worker, Middlesbrough

Ann Smith, Coulby Newham

Arash Fataei Bolorchi, Stockton-on-Tees

Marek Olszowski, Middlesbrough

Marijn Nieuwenhuis, Assistant Professor, Durham University

Stephen Nuttall, Brotton

Dr Olena Riabinina, Assistant Professor, Durham University

Geraldine Butterfield, Middlesbrough

Louise Baldock, Stockton-on-Tees

Helen Laws, Hartlepool

Mary Ingram, MAP Volunteer, Middlesbrough

Raha, Volunteer, Middlesbrough

Peter Carr, Teacher, Middlesbrough

Ciarán Carr, Student, Middlesbrough

Ramin Peroznejad, Guisborough

Dr Nicole Renehan, Assistant Professor, Durham

Graham Laws, Member of Tees and Hartlepool Yacht Club, Hartlepool

Anne Bulmer, Eaglescliffe

Kath Sainsbury, Saltburn 

Michael Noppen, Hartlepool

Gill Noppen-Spacie, Seaton Carew

Margaret Lally, London

Joy Smith, MAP Volunteer Teacher, Middlesbrough 

Kathryn Wilson, MAP Volunteer Teacher, Middlesbrough

Colleau Brigitte, MAP Volunteer, Middlesbrough

Morton Wilson, Middlesbrough

Margaret Humberston, Elder in the United Reformed Church, Hartlepool

Theo Furness, Training Instructor, PD Ports

Brian Glover, Middlesbrough

Eileen Driver, Stokesley

Sara de Jong, Senior Lecturer in Politics, York

Ian Fyfe, Yarm

Teresa Lyth, Justice and Peace Group St Mary’s Cathedral, Middlesbrough

Elizabeth Styan, Ingleby Arncliffe

Paul Humberston, Hartlepool

Catherine Ramos, Director, Justice First

Diane Parker, Redcar

Richard Parker, Redcar

Mandy Penellum, Barrow Trades Union Council, Barrow-in-Furness

Laurence Haley, Middlesbrough

Allison Chisnall, Sunderland

Solafa Eltom, Stockton-on-Tees

Madalena Lemos, Durham

Stephen Robson, Unison Steward, Sunderland

Vicky Holt, Nurse, Eaglescliffe

Michael Shackleton, Manchester

Lauren Blommel, Norton

Sandralucia, GP, Stockton-on-Tees

Geraldine Butterfield, Middlesbrough

Clare Churley, Mickleby

Caleb Day, Wallsend

Dave Heggarty, Stokesley

You can find more about our #CommunitiesNotCamps campaign against Government plans to warehouse people seeking asylum in military sites, barges and former prisons here.
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