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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2739

Sweden plans to house nearly 1,800 migrants on a luxury cruise ship

Stockholm, 22 February, (Asiantribune.com):

Sweden plans to house nearly 1,800 migrants on a luxury cruise ship, as it struggles to cope with its share of the huge migrant influx into Europe, officials said on Thursday.

A luxury cruise ship, which spent decades crossing the waters of the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, said to be en-route for Sweden’s chilly Baltic coast to be converted into an asylum centre.

An American charter company, US Shipmanagers, is set to provide its liner the Ocean Gala, built in 1982 and transformed into a floating hotel anchored in a Baltic Sea port.

Sweden’s Migration Agency is close to signing a deal with charter company US Shipmanagers to bring the 1,790-passenger Ocean Gala to Sweden, planning to berth it in Harnosand, a small port 270 miles north of Stockholm, but local authorities there are opposed, officially for administrative reasons. .

“I am extremely pleased. This means that we are prepared, so that we’re not going to end up in a situation where we can’t offer a roof over people’s heads,” Willis Åberg, accommodation chief at Sweden’s Migration Agency, told the Aftonbladet newspaper.

The agency is engaged a desperate race to find new beds before spring, when off-season winter contracts to house asylum seekers signed with hundreds of hotels and campsites are due to expire.

Negotiations are well on track to agree details of the arrangement, under which the agency will pay 450 Swedish krona (48 euros) per passenger to US Shipmanagers.

Sweden is struggling to find space for the 163,000 asylum seekers who arrived in the Scandinavian country last year, part of the huge wave of migrants flooding into Europe, many fleeing war in Syria.

Due to a shortage of beds in migrant centres, thousands are housed in churches, mosques, gymnasiums and evacuation centres run by civil security authorities.

“The situation is still tense. In 2016 we will need an extra 20,000-30,000 places,” said Elias. Five thousand refugees housed in campsites or holiday villages will have to make way for tourists before the summer.

The tide of refugees entering Sweden was significantly reduced after Stockholm reinstated random border controls in November.

Slightly fewer than 700 asylum seekers were registered in the last seven days, compared to some 10,000 new arrivals per week last October.

- Asian Tribune –

The 1,790-passenger Ocean Gala, formerly known as 'MS Island Escape.' PHOTO COURTESY: The Telegraph
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