Asylum seeker dies by suicide on Bibby Stockholm barge

One person living on the boat told ITV News living on the boat was humiliating. ITV News Correspondent Sangita Lal reports

An asylum seeker living on the Bibby Stockholm barge has died by suicide, according to others on board.

One person speaking to ITV News from the boat, said the asylum seeker was found dead this morning.

He noticed something was wrong when two ambulances and three police vehicles arrived but says he and others were kept in the dark about what had happened for over an hour.

Dorset Police said it received a report "of a sudden death of a resident on the Bibby Stockholm" at 6.22am this morning and "officers are conducting enquiries into the circumstances of the incident".

Charity Care4Calais said "the UK government must take responsibility for this human tragedy".

CEO Steve Smith said: "They have willfully 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."

ITV News West of England reporter Sangita Lal reports live from the Bibby Stockholm barge

Charity Freedom from Torture said "we will continue to see horrific stories of deaths, suicide attempts, serious health issues, and unnecessary suffering" until the government "stops forcing refugees into unsafe and undignified accommodation".

"It’s time this government ends the use of barges and barracks as asylum accommodation once and for all, said Ann Salter, the charity's head of clinical services north east.

"Those seeking protection need to be housed in our communities where they can properly access the support they need to recover and rebuild their lives.”

The home secretary, James Cleverly, confirmed that "tragically there has been a death on the Bibby Stockholm barge". He told the Commons he could not go into the details but said the government "will investigate fully".

 A Home Office spokesperson said: “This is a tragic incident, and our thoughts are with everyone affected.

“The welfare of all those in our care is of the utmost importance, and we take our responsibility for their wellbeing incredibly seriously. 

“This will now be investigated by the police and coroner. It is right that the facts and circumstances surrounding this death are established.”

A spokesman for Dorset Police said: "At 6.22am on Tuesday 12 December 2023, Dorset Police received a report of a sudden death of a resident on the Bibby Stockholm.

"Officers are conducting enquiries into the circumstances of the incident. The coroner’s office has been notified of the death."

Sir Keir Starmer said his "heart goes out to the family and friends" who are "absolutely grieving as we speak" for the person who has died onboard.

Floral tributes were left outside the barge after the news broke, with one message reading: "So very sad that one of our friends from a distant land has died today. May you rest in peace."

The first floral tributes left outside the Bibby Stockholm barge. Credit: ITV News/Sangita Lal

It comes as MPs prepare to debate another anti-immigration policy, the plan to send asylum seekers - some who may have been housed on the barge - thousands of miles away to Rwanda.

The plan had been ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court, which said Rwanda was not a safe country, but Rishi Sunak announced emergency legislation which bypasses some human rights laws in order to get the policy off the ground.

Sir Keir called the government's Rwanda plans a "gimmick" and said: "It won't work, it'll cost a fortune - £290 million already without a single person having gone."

The Bibby Stockholm barge has been blighted with problems from the moment it docked at Portland in August, with a series of concerning health and safety issues.

Before anyone was moved to the repurposed accommodation barge, the Fire Brigade Union raised "serious fire and operational safety concerns" about the potential for overcrowding on the boat where the Home Office hopes to eventually house up to 500 asylum seekers.

There has also been intense local opposition to asylum seekers being housed on the boat, with numerous protests taking place both before people were moved there, and during their stay.

The union said: "In the view of the FBU, far-right opposition to asylum-seekers, reported in the news, gives rise to a real risk of arson attacks or use of hazardous materials against the barge."

And Legionella bacteria was found in water on the boat after the first 39 asylum seekers were moved there, resulting in them all being removed.

People were eventually returned to the boat but the site has recently faced protests and counter protests.

Local residents of Weymouth and Portland from the 'No To The Barge' campaign group gathered to voice their continuing concerns, saying they are "fed up, frustrated and angry", in November.

They were met by counter protesters, who also did not believe people should be housed on the barge but were urging the government to offer more support.

In response to both protests, a spokesperson for the Home Office said: “This is part of the government’s pledge to reduce the use of expensive hotels and bring forward alternative accommodation options which provide a more cost-effective, sustainable and manageable system for the UK taxpayer and local communities.”

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