It was confirmed on Tuesday that an asylum seeker on board the Bibby Stockholm barge has died. According to BBC sources, the man is thought to have taken his own life.
BBC News spoke with asylum seekers housed on the barge who described how the man had been shouting in the corridor late on Monday evening and in the early hours of Tuesday morning. They said that ‘he was shouting at someone and complaining [saying] everyday this happen to me, the food is not good, and the environment… and the one line he repeated ‘I am not a scapegoat’.
It is understood that Dorset Police were called at 6:22 on Tuesday morning and that emergency services were on the barge by 6:30. A Dorset Police spokesperson quoted in the Guardian said that ‘officers are conducting inquiries into the circumstances of the incident. The coroner’s office has been notified of the death.’
It is believed that the barge is currently housing 300 asylum seekers and is expected to accommodate 500 overall. The Government has made provisions for such asylum seekers whose applications are waiting for a decision by the government.
Justice Gap has previously reported that a 23-year-old Nigerian citizen attempted suicide before his anticipated transfer from a hotel to the Bibby Stockholm barge. An asylum seeker speaking to the Guardian said ‘This death has not come as a surprise to any of us…The longer they keep us here, the more I can see everyone’s mental health deteriorating,’
In an open letter published by the Guardian in September, asylum seekers previously housed on the Bibby Stockholm spoke of the tremendous toll the experience took on their psychological well-being. In the letter they note, ‘We’re all struggling mentally. Some of us are married and all of us are away from our families, and worried about them. We’re constantly stressed, many of us are on medication, some of us have serious health conditions. And we feel the situation is getting worse.’
Calls to close the barge for good have been made by campaigners following the death. The chief executive of the Refugee Council highlighted their concern for asylum seekers and called for an independent review of the incident. Quoted in the Guardian, he said ‘we know from our work supporting men, women and children in the asylum system that many are deeply traumatised and feel isolated and unable to get the help they need. Some are so desperate they self-harm and feel suicidal.’
As reported by the BBC, the Home Office spokesperson confirmed that the death will be fully investigated and that they take responsibility for wellbeing very seriously.