Asylum seeker found dead on the Bibby Stockholm barge

An asylum seeker has died onboard the Bibby Stockholm, the controversial barge used by the government to house migrants.

The person was found dead on the boat in Portland port, Dorset, on Tuesday morning.

A few hundred asylum seekers have been living on the three-storey barge since October after it was finally given the all clear, two months after it was evacuated following the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water supply.

Refugee charity Care4Calais confirmed the news of the death. CEO Steve Smith added: “Our thoughts are with the person who has lost their life, their family and their friends. It is also with all those stuck on board the Bibby Stockholm who will be experiencing a deep feeling of grief and worry today.”

The barge is being used to house asylum seekers while their claims are processed


He criticised the conditions on board the barge, adding: “The UK government must take responsibility for this human tragedy. They have wilfully ignored the trauma they are inflicting on people who are sent to the Bibby Stockholm, and the hundreds being accommodated in former military barracks.

“They are being separated from the rest of society and we have witnessed a serious deterioration of people’s mental health. We have regularly been reporting suicidal intentions amongst residents and no action is taken. This can no longer continue.”

A spokesperson for Dorset Police said that they received a report of “a sudden death of a resident on the Bibby Stockholm” at 6:22am on Tuesday morning.

They continued: “Officers are conducting enquiries into the circumstances of the incident. The coroner’s office has been notified of the death.”

Further details of the incident are yet to be confirmed and the person’s age and country of origin are not yet known.

Asylum seekers living on the barge have previously said that they are in “various forms of serious mental distress”. One migrant described the conditions as like “being in prison”.

Just Stop Oil attempted to block the first coach returning asylum seekers to Bibby Stockholm barge in October

(Just Stop Oil)

Those living onboard cannot come and go easily. Buses run from 9 to 5 to shuttle migrants to the gates so they can leave, but these do not run 24/7.

A vehicle for the barge’s security team has only recently been provided to facilitate trips to and from the Port gate between 11pm and 7am. All those boarding the barge also have to go through an airport-style scanner.

The Home Office have said that around 500 asylum seekers would be able to live on the barge at maximum capacity, though a fire prevention report released under FOI suggested that 425 was the maximum.

The government planned to house migrants in dual occupancy rooms, with a small number of bedrooms on the barge containing four or six beds.

A nurse is onsite from 9 to 5, five days a week, and a GP is onsite one day a week.

Ann Salter, from charity Freedom from Torture, said that “the cramped and dangerous conditions on the Bibby can be profoundly retraumatising for those who’ve survived torture and persecution, in addition to traumatic experiences they’ve suffered en route to the UK.”

Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, called for an independent review to be carried out into the death so that lessons can be learned.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer reacted to the reports saying his thoughts were “with the individual who has lost his or her life, and the family and friends of that individual who will be absolutely grieving as we speak”.

The news comes as prime minister Rishi Sunak faces a crunch vote on his plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda on Tuesday evening.

The Rwanda bill would seek to block the vast majority of legal challenges from asylum seekers that the government wants to deport. Under the terms of the bill, asylum seekers would not be able to ask the courts to consider whether Rwanda is a safe country, but would only be allowed to argue against their deportation if there were significant individual circumstances that meant they should not be sent to the east-African country.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our thoughts and condolences are with those affected by the death of a resident on the Bibby Stockholm.

“The welfare of all those in our care is of the utmost importance. Any death in asylum accommodation is a tragic event, and will be subject to investigation by the police and coroner.”


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