Bibby Stockholm: Just Stop Oil protesters block road as asylum seekers return to barge

  • Watch as protesters clambered in front of a coach carrying asylum seekers back to the Bibby Stockholm

Protesters have attempted to block a coach carrying asylum seekers back to a controversial accommodation barge.

People were seen arriving at the Bibby Stockholm moored off Portland, in Dorset, shortly before 1pm on Thursday 19 October.

The vessel, which has capacity for up to 500 men awaiting the outcome of asylum applications, was evacuated a few months ago following the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water supply.

The Home Office has said all necessary tests have been completed on the floating vessel, which has been out of use since August.

It added the number of people on board will increase gradually as part of a phased approach.

  • Watch: ITV News' Amy Lewis reports

On Thursday morning, 23 protesters from Just Stop Oil clambered in front of the coach carrying the asylum seekers and sat on the road in an attempt to prevent it from reaching port gates.

The protesters carried a banner saying "No prison ship."

People also gathered at the port gates to protest against migrants being moved back onboard.

Heather Joans, from Portland Global Friendship, said she had been in contact with some of those who had been staying on the barge.

She said: "They went on that barge because they wanted to obey the law, but in those four days, it was really, really traumatic."

The barge has been moored off the coast of Portland since July. Credit: PA

"Ultimately, the asylum seekers don't want to be housed on barges. They want to be able to work, and to be processed quickly and efficiently, so they can actually get on with their lives," she added.

In August, 32 migrants on board the barge were disembarked as a precaution after traces of legionella bacteria were found on board.

Legionella bacteria can cause a serious type of lung infection known as Legionnaires' disease.

The migrants were moved off the vessel only four days after the first 15 asylum seekers boarded the barge.

Supplies were taken onto the Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge at Portland Port, in Dorset earlier this week. Credit: Andrew Matthews / PA Wire

A letter, from the Home Office, was sent to asylum seekers confirming their re-embarkation and reminded migrants that accommodation was offered on a "no-choice" basis.

The Government made administrative changes to the transfer notices, following legal challenges.

The new transfer notices are legal documents addressed to individual asylum seekers. They now give asylum seekers a notice period and advise them of their right to challenge the transfer.

Steve Smith, CEO of refugee charity Care4Calais, acknowledged the administrative changes that have been made but said the problems with the Bibby Stockholm are "intractable" and "cannot be fixed".

He said: "The people who were on the barge during the legionella outbreak have consistently told us that being on board was like being detained in a prison.

“They are accommodated behind high-security fences, surrounded by security guards, and prevented from leaving on foot.

"By using accommodation like barges and barracks, the Government is stripping asylum seekers of their liberty," he added.

The Home Office said more asylum seekers will arrive in the coming days and months. Credit: PA

Earlier this week, a supply van was seen arriving at Portland Port with food including fresh vegetables being brought on board.

It comes after local councillor Carralyn Parks lost a High Court fight with Home Secretary Suella Braverman over the housing of asylum seekers on a barge.

On Wednesday 11 October, Mr Justice Holgate ruled that Mrs Parkes did not have an arguable case.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "From today, we are beginning to move people back on to the Bibby Stockholm in Portland.

"All necessary tests including health, fire and waterchecks have been completed, and all are satisfactory.

"The number of people on board will increase gradually with more arrivals in the coming days and months, as part of a carefully structured, phased approach.

“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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