The Home Office is planning on reopening the migrant barge moored in Dorset next week. Meanwhile, it is also facing criticism and a legal challenge for not disclosing the full cost for using the vessel.
The Bibby Stockholm barge is intended to accommodate up to 500 asylum seekers as they await to hear about their asylum applications. Shortly following the opening of the barge, the first men on board were removed due to Legionella bacteria in the water supply.
This week, the BBC reported that the Home Office has sent letters to the asylum seekers detailing that they will return to the barge on 19 October on a ‘no choice basis’. The Home Office also stated that delivering alternative accommodation rather than hotels is ‘more affordable for taxpayers and more manageable for communities, due to healthcare and catering facilities on site, 24/7 security and the purpose-built safe accommodation they provide’.
However, this has left many asylum seekers ‘very, very worried about going on board, with the water contamination’ according to a local councillor quoted by the BBC.
Meanwhile, the High Court has also this week heard a legal challenge to the use of the barge from Carralyn Parkes, the Mayor of Portland, through crowdfunded support. She is quoted by the BBC as saying that ‘I’m doing this because I believe the barge is a terrible plan for our community as well as for asylum-seekers.’
Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Freedom from Torture are urging the Home Office to reconsider putting migrants back on the barge. Amnesty International quoted by the BBC expressed that it is an ‘utterly shameful way to house people who’ve fled terror, conflict and persecution’.
The Home Office, as reported by the I news, is refusing to disclose just how much taxpayers will be asked to pay for the Bibby Stockholm asylum barge. Despite having the information in their files, it has rejected the request, stating it would ‘not be in the public interest’ to publish the information at this time.
They declined to release the information because it has not met the standards and requirements for the publication of government statistics, but provided no date for when it would be available.
The I News reports that the Home Office has already spent more than £22 million to lease the barge over an 18-month period and has cost £300,000 a week while it remained empty over the last 2 months.
The Liberal Democrats are calling for cost transparency on behalf of taxpayers. Alistair Carmichael on behalf of the Liberal Democrats said ‘the Home Secretary has squandered far too much time on her Bibby Stockholm pet project’. He further asserted that the department’s refusal to disclose the complete amount ‘adds insult to injury’.