May 03 - GSD Questions Floating Hostel Departure
The Opposition has today asked the Government to explain what alternative arrangements have been made in respect of the housing of Gibraltar’s Moroccan workers now that the Government has abandoned its ill-conceived idea of the Floating Hostel.
It has been a year since the Government arranged for the Floating Hostel to come to Gibraltar to provide temporary accommodation for the Moroccan workers, who had to vacate Buena Vista in June of last year as per the previous Government’s and BV Homes agreement. The GSD Government had plans to build a hostel at the end of North Mole which the present Government abandoned. By now, those plans to build a hostel would have been completed or well on their way to completion. Whilst we accept that the Government was perfectly entitled to pursue its own plans, the decision not to pursue the Floating Hostel idea at this very late stage has added to the delay in finding an alternative. The bottom line is that it appears that the Government did not think through whether the Floating Hostel was an appropriate solution, despite many concerns raised last year about the appropriateness of this vessel.
During Parliament last year, Jaime Netto, then Opposition Spokesman for Equality, suggested the Government abandon the idea of the floating vessel and get started on building the permanent hostel. In answer to Mr Netto’s questions Mr Picardo said: “I do not know where he gets it from to say that it is degrading to offer people the opportunity to move into what was a three-star hotel...it will be subject to a refurbishment which will make it much better accommodation than Buena Vista ever was for the period that he was in Government,” and that everything on which Mr Netto had premised his questions were “unfortunately wrong”.
Commenting on the matter, Isobel Ellul-Hammond, Opposition Spokesman for Equality, said: “The Floating Hostel has been an ill thought through solution and I hope there are contingency plans in place. They really should have got on with concrete plans for a new workers’ hostel as per their manifesto pledge. Increasingly this appears to be a Government that makes it up as it goes along with no coherent strategy either on this issue or others.”
In response to the issue, the Government has noted that it is a bit rich for the Opposition to criticise the Government’s willingness to look at the possibility of a floating hostel in order to decant Moroccan workers. This is simply because they were the ones, when in office, who gave a commitment to vacate Buena Vista by the middle of last year without making provision for an alternative place in which to house the workers in that timeframe.
The Government, as already explained, was not satisfied with the condition of the floating hostel following damage that had been sustained to it on its original journey to Gibraltar nor with the cosmetic repairs to that damage.
The Government has already started to consider a number of alternative options for housing Moroccan workers and an announcement will be made in due course.