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Controversy Surrounds Asylum Seekers’ Floating Refuge

The Bibby Stockholm

Government’s Plan to House Hundreds of Asylum Seekers on a Three-Storey, 222-Bedroom Barge Stirs Debate and Public Outcry

The government has sparked controversy by proposing a novel, yet contentious solution to the escalating cost of housing asylum seekers. In a strategy that mixes practicality with cost-saving, the Home Office has decided to utilise the ‘Bibby Stockholm’, a three-storey, 222-bedroom barge, as a temporary residence for hundreds of asylum seekers.

Twin To Six Person Bedrooms

The barge has been revamped to provide accommodations for up to 506 guests, predominantly in twin rooms, with a smaller number of four and six-person rooms. All the quarters have been equipped with ensuite facilities to maintain privacy.

In terms of services, the ‘Bibby Stockholm’ is set to offer round-the-clock security, as well as healthcare and catering services. Residents will also have access to a gym, a bar, a restaurant, and a games room, featuring equipment like dart boards and pool tables.

Raising Concerns: Inhumane or Innovative?

However, this unconventional approach has been met with resistance and concern. The British Red Cross, in a statement on its website, expressed apprehension about the appropriateness of this form of accommodation, saying, “These sites will be entirely inappropriate for people and will lead to significant suffering.”

Further echoing these concerns are forty other organisations and individuals, including Refugee Action, City of Sanctuary UK, the Institute for Race Relations, Praxis, the Helen Bamber Foundation, and Lib Dem peer Baroness Brinton. They have collectively signed an open letter urging Bibby Marine to withdraw from its charter agreement, citing the inappropriateness of the vessel’s use.

Despite these apprehensions, the Home Office has reassured that residents will not be confined to the barge. Asylum seekers will be free to come and go as they please, and a complimentary bus service will be provided for their transportation.

Public Outcry and Community Impact

Meanwhile, local residents have expressed their dissatisfaction, leading to numerous protests. They argue that these plans are not only inhumane but they also risk adding undue strain on local community resources.

However, Councillor Laura Beddow highlighted the experiences of other areas where well-managed facilities have resulted in very low levels of crime and antisocial behaviour. She acknowledged the local concerns and emphasised the commitment of Dorset Council to work with other statutory agencies and partners in managing this complex situation.

Financial Implications and Historical Resonances

The financial aspect of the barge’s use has also stirred debates. Dorset Council is projected to receive a considerable amount over the duration of the vessel’s stay, based on a certain sum per bed space made available.

However, critics argue about the ethical aspects of this initiative. Some draw parallels to the infamous HM Prison Weare, a decommissioned prison ship known for its poor conditions, questioning whether such a setup is a humane way to treat refugees.

As preparations continue for the ‘Bibby Stockholm’ to welcome its new residents, the debates surrounding its use are unlikely to subside. The tension between the needs of the asylum seekers, the concerns of the local residents, and the government’s immigration policies continues to intensify. This situation promises to remain a challenging and contentious issue for all parties involved.

Bibby Stockholm

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