Migrants and asylum seekers held on the Bibby Stockholm are being ‘confined to the barge as much as possible’ according to a new report about the ‘quasi detention’ conditions on the vessel.
An update from the multi-agency forum responsible for the barge released this week indicates they believe it is ‘not in anyone’s interest’ for asylum seekers to be allowed unacompanied to surrounding areas. A bus service to the local town is a condition of the contract between the accommodation provider and the Home Office; however the latest report says exercise, recreational and multi-faith facilities are on board ‘to minimise the need to leave the site’.
Campaigners argue the conditions aboard the Bibby Stockholm are akin to detention on account of visible security measures, reduced privacy, shared living quarters, and the residents’ isolation from the wider community.
The vast majority of those currently housed on the barge arrived in the UK by plane and sought asylum through legal means.
In a Guardian report from 29 October, one barge resident said: ‘We have exactly the feeling of being in prison. It is true that they say that this is not a prison and you can go outside at any time, but you can only go to specific stops at certain times by bus, and this does not give me a good feeling. Even to use the fresh air, you have to go through the inspection every time and go to the small yard with high fences and go through the X-ray machine again. And this is not good for our health.’
He continued: ‘In short, this is a prison whose prisoners are not criminals, they are people who have fled their country just to save their lives and have taken shelter here to live.’