Ocean Gala has arrived, despite furious Swedes

 
Ocean Gala has arrived, despite furious Swedes
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Yesterday, the huge "refugee-ship" Ocean Gala arrived in Sweden, a former luxury cruise ship.

Ocean Gala has place for 1790 refugees/migrants and has docked in the small community of Utansjö, where people are furious.

- Utansjö is far too small to accommodate so many, says Erik Sjölander, who lives in Utansjö.

- An asylum accommodation at an old industrial quay will only create a lot of problems for everybody except those who get paid, says Lars-Gunnar Hultin, a politician who also lives in Utansjö.

- What would the asylum seekers do here, it can not be a serious approach. Utansjö has already taken responsibility. There are 150 asylum seekers here already. We can not receive more, says Hultin.

A perception that the two share with many in the area, who yesterday witnessed the arrival of the vessel.

The municipality are now working intensively to try to stop the plans for an asylum accommodation onboard the Ocean Gala in Utansjö.

- We are completely taken by surprise. The port owner commits a crime, it has never happened before in Sweden, and it is very unfortunate. If the vessel remains, we will require a planning permission, and there must be a new plan for the accommodation. Today, the area is industrial land, says Fred Nilsson, who is councilor of Härnösand.

He confirmed that a police report has been filed.

Kjell Tandberg, who is representing Floating Accommodations Sweden AB, which has hired Ocean Gala, regrets the situation that has arisen.

- It is best for all parties that we have a dialogue. We have staff on site at Utansjö but nobody from the municipality have contacted us. They stopped us from entering Härnösand earlier this year and now it is not appropriate that we lay outside the city, he says on phone from his office in Odessa, in the United States.

- We are fulfilling our agreement with the Swedish Migration Board. There is nothing that can stop it even if the Swedish law says otherwise. According to European directives, no building permits for vessels of this type are required, says Kjell Tandberg.

According to the agreement between the Swedish Migration Board and Floating accomodations Sweden AB, the Immigration Service pays for all cabins on the ship, no matter how many are used. The daily rent is staggering SEK 800,000 ($96,000), or just over SEK 290 million a year.

- Yes, we are renting the ship. Then of course we must make sure that we use the ship to the extent we are paying for. It must be our goal, says Willis Åberg at the Swedish Migration Board, to Swedish Televison, meaning that the small community most likely will receive 1790 newcomers from the Third World during the summer.

Ocean Gala has been at a shipyard in Kiel in Germany and has been converted to accommodate a total of 1790 asylum seekers. The ship's owners have invested several millions.

- Everything will be on board, from food distribution to arrangements of various activities. The business will provide local businesses with work, and we are already in contact with up to eight companies, says Kjell Tandberg.

He expects to open the asylum accommodation within two weeks. In the agreement with the Immigration Service it will be operational by July 3.

Related: Refugees and migrants to stay in great luxury on cruise ship


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