Plan for Shipboard Migrant Housing Ends in Dispute
On Wednesday, the Swedish Migration Board announced that it would halt a plan to use the floating hotel Ocean Gala as a refugee accommodation center, noting that the local government has not provided a necessary permit.
"You can not run an asylum accommodation on a passenger ship in a place where it is forbidden," said Magnus Gustavsson, acting head of the Board's administration department.
The original agreement would have housed up to 1,900 individuals on board at a cost to the government of about $95,000 per day. Early this year, Willis Aberg, head of housing issues for the board, said that the former cruise liner was a good solution to an urgent problem. "This means that we are prepared, so we do not end up in a situation where we cannot offer shelter," he told Aftonbladet.
However, on Monday the Board said that it was carefully reviewing all contractually required permits for the project, and by Wednesday it announced that the Ocean Gala's operators had not met a deadline to secure approvals for operation.
The operator, Floating Accommodations, says that the Board owes them the vessel's day rate beginning Monday – regardless of whether or not there are refugees on board. It has sent its first invoice, and it denies that there has been any breach of contract.
"It is obvious that the Swedish government is trying to get rid of this. Rather than negotiate a termination, they are trying to find an excuse not to pay," said Kjell Tandberg, a partner at the firm, speaking to Aftonbladet on Wednesday.
The firm is expected to appeal the Board's decision, and the outcome may be decided through litigation. "It will certainly be a dispute . . . There is an agreement in place. You have to decide whether the conditions are met or not. Ultimately, a court may determine that," said the Board's director, Anders Danielsson, speaking to Aftonbladet.