Bibby Stockholm: Protests form as asylum seeker barge docks in Portland Port in Dorset

180723 The Bibby Stockholm has docked. PA
The Bibby Stockholm has docked. Credit: PA

Protestors have gathered as a barge set to house 500 asylum seekers pulls into Portland Port.

The Bibby Stockholm barge left Falmouth Harbour on 17 July, more than a month behind schedule.

It was manoeuvred along the coastline by the tug Mercia and pulled into the Dorset harbour this morning, 18 July.

  • Watch as the barge arrived in Portland

The vessel will house 506 men who are waiting for their asylum claims to be processed.

Two groups of protestors have taken positions in Portland this morning. One saying "no to the barge" and the other in support of asylum seekers.

Sally, from Weymouth and 'No to the barge' said: “Portland’s a tiny little island with 13,000 people, Weymouth is just a stone’s throw away.

"We’re at the start of our tourist season as children break up from school at the end of the week, so Weymouth is packed.

“500 young single men who are going to be bored, have nothing to do and they will be bussed to the beach at Weymouth and various locations every hour from Portland and it could be intimidating for tourists.

"They’ve spent a lot of their hard-earned money on a holiday. As a mum, I’ve got two teenagers and fundamentally the safety aspect. 500 young, unvetted men, you don’t know their backgrounds, it’s a worry.

“It’s meant to be for 200 people and it’s got 500 on. In the winter the weather can be terrible so when they’re all on the barge together it’s inevitable that there’s going to be problems.

“There aren’t enough police to deal with what happens on this guinea pig of a barge. It’s an experiment really, it’s meant to be cheaper than the hotels.

“I’ll be heartbroken, I’ll be really upset, you can see how beautiful our town is and it’s going to have a detrimental effect.”

"Stand up to Racism" protestors gather at Portland Port.

Annika Garratt from Dorset Stand Up to Racism said: "I think the barge being here is a terrible idea, I think keeping people on a barge is a terrible idea, but we’ve just got to make the best of a bad situation.

"We don’t have the infrastructure to be helping people. I’m against the hate speech and racism and islamophobia.

"We’ve got a great community here, we’ve got loads of volunteers, everyone wants to help out and just help the asylum seekers through a very difficult process.

"They’ve gone through a horrible journey and all they want is a chance at safety and freedom."

The government says it needs to reduce the cost of housing asylum seekers and insists the use of the barge will be more cost-effective than using hotels.

It says there are currently about 51,000 asylum seekers in hotels across the UK, costing the taxpayer about £6m a day.

Two groups of protestors have taken positions in Portland this morning. Credit: PA Images

Minister for Nuclear and Networks Andrew Bowie MP said: "We completely understand why there is so much opposition to the barge off Portland and indeed to hotels being used for the same purpose up and down the country.

"That's precisely why we brought forward the illegal migration bill which passed its final hurdles in the House of Lords last night. It's also why we want to get the Rwanda plan up and running.

"We want to ensure we break the back of this vicious and pernicious trade in human life that is funnelling people across a very dangerous stretch of water, like the English Channel.

"We need to get this piece of legislation, and that will mean we no longer have to rely on barges and hotels across the country."

  • Portland locals react to the arrival of the asylum seeker barge

People living in Portland Port have reacted to the 500 asylum seekers soon to be arriving in the area.

Whilst locals sympathise with those who will be housed on the barge, they told ITV News the island 'is the wrong place for it'.

Sam Bishop, a housekeeper at the Royal Breakwater Hotel - providing temporary accommodation for people waiting to be housed by the council told ITV News: "All that money’s gone on to that barge, why couldn’t it have gone on families, homeless people and people who need it."

"This is so frustrating, when you’ve got the barge there, they're probably going to have their meals cooked for them and everything’s paid for and it’s just annoying.”

A local landlord explained how they feel like they didn't have much say in the matter.

"I think there's a certain amount of the unknown, 500 young men - what are they going to be like. Part of me says we've got to give them a chance."

Another resident said she was "concerned people are being judged before they've even arrived here."

“People do not want to see Portland change, it’s a lovely place for people to visit."