Asylum seeker dies on UK’s Bibby Stockholm barge

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An asylum seeker has died on board the Bibby Stockholm barge that is accommodating more than 250 men as part of the UK’s plan to toughen conditions for migrants and cut the cost of housing them in hotels.

News of the death came hours before parliament was due to vote on legislation designed to revive Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s troubled plans to deport asylum seekers arriving in Britain without prior permission to Rwanda.  

Richard Drax, MP for south Dorset where the Bibby Stockholm is berthed, said the man had died by suicide and was found this morning.

“It was suicide. This is a tragedy born of an impossible situation . . . One can only imagine the desperate circumstances which led to this sad outcome; we must do all that we can to end this evil trade in human misery,” he said.

The death follows previous suicide attempts of people due to be sent to the Bibby Stockholm and one on board, according to Nicola David, who runs One Life to Live which campaigns against inappropriate accommodation of asylum seekers. “All the warnings have been there,” she said.

The Home Office said: “We are aware of reporting of an incident involving an asylum seeker on the Bibby Stockholm.” It declined to comment further because of an ongoing police investigation.

Refugee charities blamed the government for failing to heed months of warnings about the detrimental effect that housing vulnerable people fleeing war and persecution on the barge could have on their mental health.

Steve Smith, chief executive of refugee charity Care4Calais, said: “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,” he added.

A small number of asylum seekers were sent to the barge in August, months after the vessel was due to begin housing them at the privately owned port of Portland on the Dorset coast.

But the Home Office was forced to evacuate the barge soon afterwards after the bacteria that causes Legionnaires disease was found in the water system.

Some 39 men on board the barge wrote to charities in August describing the harrowing experience of being transferred there, having fled war and persecution. The letter said that there had been one suicide attempt on board the vessel.

“We might face a repeat of such situations in the future. Some friends even said they wished they had the courage to commit suicide,” the letter said.

In October, a 23-year-old Nigerian man attempted suicide in a car park outside the Essex hotel where he was accommodated. This was after he had been informed that he would be transferred to the Bibby Stockholm.


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