Migrant families are now banned from sleeping in Boston’s airport

Migrant families that have been sleeping overnight in Boston’s airport may soon find themselves in an unexpected place: a former state prison.

A new Massachusetts policy goes into effect today, banning overnight stays at Logan International Airport.

Some eligible families on a waiting list will be taken to new shelters, officials said, including a former prison in Norfolk, Massachusetts, that was recently converted into an emergency shelter.

The move comes as state officials say they’ve run out of shelter space.

“We’ve never thought that Logan was an appropriate place for people to be staying overnight,” Gov. Maura Healey told CNN affiliate WBZ after announcing the policy.

Officials converted a former prison into a shelter. It’s controversial

For months, officials in Massachusetts have warned they were overwhelmed by the number of migrants arriving.

Healey said last year that the state’s emergency shelter system for families had reached capacity with 7,500 families.

At one point last year, the state’s lieutenant governor called on residents to consider housing migrants in their homes due to the lack of shelter space. And recently a delegation from the state traveled to the US Southern border to spread the word “about how Massachusetts is out of shelter space,” officials said.

In May officials announced that the Bay State Correctional Center in Norfolk, which shut down in 2015, was being converted into an emergency shelter that could house 140 families.

The controversial announcement sparked protests outside the facility some 25 miles southwest of Boston, WBZ reported.

Footage from the CNN affiliate showed protesters waving signs that said, “No kids in prisons” and “Norfolk Prison-Shelter Not Safe for Anyone!”

And at a heated community meeting last month, tensions flared as Norfolk residents expressed concerns about possible impacts on schools, medical services and public safety, according to WBZ.

Police and social workers escorted families out

Migrants have been sleeping in a corner of the Boston airport’s international arrivals terminal for months. Footage from CNN affiliates showed people lining up sleeping bags, blankets and pillows in rows along the walls of the terminal.

This file photo from January shows migrants families using Terminal E at Boston Logan International Airport as a shelter. - Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images
This file photo from January shows migrants families using Terminal E at Boston Logan International Airport as a shelter. - Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

At one point, hundreds of migrant families were staying there, CNN affiliate WCVB reported. On June 25, officials said 288 people had slept there overnight. By Tuesday morning, only a few families remained.

After sunrise, WBZ reported that state police, social workers and airport staff led those migrants to taxis, which took migrants to welcome centers in Allston and Quincy.

“This is in the best interest of families and travelers and staff at Logan, as the airport is not an appropriate place for people to seek shelter,” state Emergency Assistance Director Scott Rice said in a press release last month. “We are going to continue to spread the word that Massachusetts is out of shelter space and that, if families are travelling to Massachusetts, they need to be prepared with a plan for housing that does not include Logan Airport or our Emergency Assistance shelters.”

CNN’s Braden Walker contributed to this report.

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