Bunk beds and disconnected TVs: Look inside Bibby Stockholm as barge ready to house asylum seekers

ITV News' Amy Lewis reports from inside Bibby Stockholm, where hundreds of asylum seekers will study, exercise, and relax

A barge which will be used to house 500 asylum seekers arrived in Portland in Dorset this week and is now ready for people to start living on board.

Bibby Stockholm was refurbished in Falmouth before moving to Portland where it is expected to stay for the next 18 months.

The barge has caused controversy since it was first announced, with critics claiming it is a cruel and inhumane way to house asylum seekers. People in Portland also fear it will damage tourism and add to already stretched public services.

The Home Office says using the barge provides "better value" for taxpayers than using hotels and says it will work to minimise disruption for residents.

ITV News West Country reporter Bob Cruwys has been on board the barge today to see firsthand the conditions people on it will be living in.

He learned that people living on the boat will be greeted by airport-security each time they board, with CCTV also fitted throughout the barge.

Most of the rooms contain two bunk beds and have a small ensuite, but some rooms have enough bunk beds to sleep four or six people.

Each bedroom has a TV - but none of them will be turned on with working TVs only available in communal areas to encourage socialisation. Board games will also be provided.

The canteen area on board Bibby Stockholm. Credit: PA

People will eat in a canteen-style restaurant which will serve three meals a day. Bread and soup will be available 24/7.

There is a small gym on board with a few running machines, a cross trainer and weights. There is also a classroom where people will be offered English lessons, an IT room and a medical area which will be staffed by an advanced nurse practitioner five days a week.

Voluntary English lessons will be on offer on board. Credit: PA

The full picture from on board the Bibby Stockholm from ITV News West Country reporter Bob Cruwys

"The visit today today was strictly controlled. At 9.45am, I boarded a minibus with a number of other journalists from local and national media.

"I was given a guided tour of the Bibby Stockholm, which took around half an hour.

The view from one of the bedroom's on board the barge. Credit: PA

"They showed me examples of all the rooms and facilities on board and told me there is a little preparation work still to be completed but that everything will be ready by Monday.

"As asylum seekers arrive on board they will go through a security gate, similar to what you might see at an airport or when boarding a cruise ship. There is a scanner to check bags. They will go through this every time they come on board.

There will be airport style security on board Bibby Stockholm. Credit: PA

"Each resident will be issued with a room key and a security card which they will need to scan each time they come on and off the barge.

"There is no smoking or vaping allowed on board. There will be a smoking area on the dockside.

"The bedrooms are almost all double occupancy. They are small, with bunk beds and a desk with a chair. There is a wardrobe and an en suite shower room with toilet and basin. There are also other shared toilet facilities on the accommodation corridors, some of which also have showers inside.

The majority of bedrooms will house two men. Credit: PA

"There are also 20 rooms which will sleep four people and two rooms which sleep six. It is expected that these rooms will be filled last. If people arrive on board who are part of a group who know each other well, they might be able to request that they share one of these larger rooms.

"There is a television in each bedroom. These have been disconnected, although they do have a USB connection which people will be able to use to connect devices. There is WiFi freely available throughout the barge.

An ensuite bathroom on board the Bibby Stockholm. Credit: PA

"An IT room has been set up which will contain desktop computers for the residents to use for around 30 mins at a time, availability permitting. They are expecting to provide one computer per 20 residents.

"There are power points throughout the barge, including in the bedrooms. Most of these are EU-style plug sockets. Adaptors will be available to convert these to a UK socket.

"The entire barge has recently been fitted with CCTV which covers all the corridors and communal rooms. There are no cameras in the bedrooms. This will be monitored from a security room on board.

The gym has a few running machines, a cross trainer and some weights. Credit: PA

"There are two large TV recreation rooms with sofa and armchair seating for around 12 people at a time. Televisions will receive free-to-air channels. There will be movie screenings but residents will be able to choose what channels they watch.

"There are a total of five lounge areas, some of them smaller and without a TV facility.

"There are two outdoor courtyard areas on board where residents will be able to play ball games. It is possible one of these may be laid with astroturf in future.

One of the common rooms on board Bibby Stockholm. Credit: PA

"They will listen to the residents to find out what sports they might like to play and expand the provision accordingly.

"Board games will be provided. They will consult with the asylum seekers when they begin to arrive to find out what games they might like.

"Other recreation will be available off the barge. There is the potential for residents to be offered allotment space off site and the opportunity to visit community events and festivals nearby.

The faith room will be adaptable for people's needs. Credit: PA

"There is a multi-faith room available for prayer or reflection. This is currently unfurnished but can be adapted according to people's requirements.

"There are classrooms on board where residents will be offered English lessons twice a week. Teachers will also be available outside those lesson times for extra help and conversation practice. The lessons are voluntary.

"In a building on the dockside a large seating area which can accommodate 60 people at a time will be used for regular 'Town Hall' style meetings to discuss users' requirements, any complaints or suggestions. There is also a shop, containing donated items, where asylum seekers can exchange points, which they receive automatically, for things like clothing and treats.

The medical room will be staffed by an advanced nurse practitioner five days a week. Credit: PA

"For medical care, there is a clinical area laid out like a GP surgery. There will be an Advanced Nurse Practitioner available five days a week. There will be 12 appointment slots available in the morning and another 12 in the afternoon. These are not bookable, but assigned on a first-come first-served basis. Residents just turn up and wait to be seen. Translators will be available.

"This nurse practitioner can also organise appointments in person or virtually with a GP, who already has 1,500 asylum seeker patients on their books. Mental health and sexual health services will also be available.

Meals will be served three times a day in the canteen, with bread and soup available around the clock. Credit: PA

"The canteen-style restaurant area is large and will be open for three meals a day. Each meal will be served over a two-hour window to prevent overcrowding. The menu is culturally sensitive and the serving staff are multi-lingual with languages including French and Arabic. Outside normal meal times, soup and bread will be available 24/7.

"The catering facilities are staffed by a crew of 28, half of whom have been recruited locally. They have tried to procure food from local suppliers.

"There is a gym room with running machines, cross trainer and weights. Further equipment is on order. This will be available from 7am-8pm each day.

More equipment has been ordered for the gym on board. Credit: PA

"The first 50 asylum seekers will arrive soon and the number will increase gradually. The Home Office expects a full contingent of around 500 by the Autumn. They need to monitor how it is working as they go along.

"Asylum seekers will be given advice on how to stay safe, as part of their orientation. This includes staying safe and looking after themselves when they travel out of the port and into the community on the provided minibus service to Weymouth. This may include cultural tips.

"Residents are expected to stay on the Bibby Stockholm for between three and nine months."

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