All 39 asylum seekers off Bibby Stockholm after Legionella found in water supply
Asylum seekers have been removed from the Bibby Stockholm barge and placed in alternative accommodation due to the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water supply, the Home Office said.
All 39 of those who arrived on the vessel, docked in Portland Port in Dorset, this week have disembarked as a “precautionary measure”, according to the department.
It said no migrants have fallen sick or developed Legionnaires’ disease, which is a serious type of pneumonia, and that they are all being provided with “appropriate advice and support”.
The disembarkment comes only four days after the first 15 asylum seekers boarded the barge.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The health and welfare of asylum seekers remains of the utmost priority.
“All asylum seekers accommodated on the Bibby Stockholm have now been disembarked as a precaution and moved to alternative accommodation.
“The Home Office and our contractors are following all protocol and advice from Dorset Council’s Environmental Health team, UK Health Security Agency and Dorset NHS who we are working closely with.”
The Home Office said environmental samples from the water system on the Bibby Stockholm have shown levels of Legionella bacteria which require further investigation.
It is understood Dorset Council told department officials on Wednesday evening about the discovery of initial results indicating that the bacteria was present, but the transfer of a further six migrants on to the barge still went ahead on Thursday.
Government sources said the UK Health Security Agency then told ministers on Thursday that Legionella had been found in the vessel’s water system and advised them that they needed to remove those six migrants.
With a capacity of more than 500, the Government hopes that the use of the Bibby Stockholm, together with former military bases, will help reduce the £6 million a day it is spending on hotel bills for asylum seekers waiting for claims to be processed.
But the removal of the 39 people who had boarded the vessel has forced them back into alternative accommodation.
Around 50 people had been expected to move on to the giant vessel but around 20 were granted a last-minute reprieve after a series of legal challenges.
According to Sky News, immigration minister Robert Jenrick is understood to be chairing meetings about the situation.
Steve Smith, chief executive of charity Care4Calais, said: “We have always known our concerns over the health and safety of the barge are justified, and this latest mismanagement proves our point.
“The Bibby Stockholm is a visual illustration of this Government’s hostile environment against refugees, but it has also fast become a symbol for the shambolic incompetence which has broken Britain’s asylum system.”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “Across the country, most people want strong border security and a properly managed and controlled asylum system so the UK does its bit alongside other countries to help those who have fled persecution and conflict, while those who have no right to be here are swiftly returned.
“Under this Government, we have neither as gangs are undermining our border security and the asylum system is in chaos.”
Kolbassia Haoussou, director of survivor empowerment at Freedom from Torture, said the Government’s “punitive policies and deliberate neglect of the asylum system is not just cruel, it’s dangerous”.
Meanwhile, Fire Brigades Union assistant general secretary Ben Selby said their fire and safety and operational safety concerns onboard the vessel, which he branded a “potential death trap”, remain.
It comes as 755 people were recorded crossing the English Channel in small boats on Thursday, the highest daily number so far this year, confirming the cumulative total since 2018 has passed 100,000.
Since current records began on January 1 2018, 100,715 migrants have arrived in the UK after making the journey, according to analysis of Government data by the PA news agency.
The numbers were recorded as a major search and rescue operation was launched after 17 migrants went overboard and were pulled from the water.
The Home Office said they were all taken ashore for medical checks.
Meanwhile, Border Force reportedly suffered a double blow as one of its cutters broke down in the early hours of the morning and a £400,000 drone used to monitor activity in the Channel crashed into the sea.