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Home » Bacteria Forces Government To Move Asylum Seekers Off Bibby Stockholm

Bacteria Forces Government To Move Asylum Seekers Off Bibby Stockholm

Asylum seekers are being removed from the Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset after Legionella bacteria was found in the vessel’s water system.

All of those on board are likely to be taken to new accommodation as a precautionary measure.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick is understood to be chairing meetings about the situation.

Legionella bacteria, which is commonly found in water, can cause a serious type of lung infection known as Legionnaires’ disease. None of those on the barge have shown signs of having the disease.

Routine testing of the water supply was initially carried out on 25 July but Sky News understands the results did not come back until 7 August, the same day that asylum seekers began to board the barge.

Further tests have been carried out and the government is awaiting the results – but questions have been raised as to what the government knew and when.

A Home Office spokesperson said the health and welfare of those on board the vessel “is our utmost priority”.

“Environmental samples from the water system on the Bibby Stockholm have shown levels of legionella bacteria which require further investigation,” they said.

“Following these results, the Home Office has been working closely with UKHSA [UK Health Security Agency] and following its advice in line with long-established public health processes and ensuring all protocol from Dorset Council’s environmental health team and Dorset NHS is adhered to.

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Inside the Bibby Stockholm barge “As a precautionary measure, all 39 asylum seekers who arrived on the vessel this week are being disembarked while further assessments are undertaken.

“No individuals on board have presented with symptoms of Legionnaires’, and asylum seekers are being provided with appropriate advice and support.

“The samples taken relate only to the water system on the vessel itself and therefore carry no direct risk indication for the wider community of Portland nor do they relate to fresh water entering the vessel.

When was Legionella bacteria found on the Bibby Stockholm?

9 May: Bibby Stockholm arrives in UK waters

7 August: First 15 asylum seekers board the barge after weeks of delays. Sky News understands the test results on the water came back the same day

10 August: UKHSA advises the Home Office to remove the six asylum seekers who arrived on the vessel on Thursday. A Home Office source says this is when final tests results were received

11 August: Home Office announces, as a precaution, that all migrants are being removed from vessel.

“Legionnaires’ disease does not spread from person to person.”

The first 15 asylum seekers boarded the Bibby Stockholm in Portland, Dorset, on Monday and a small number also arrived on Tuesday.

Several refused to board the vessel amid warnings from the Home Office that they would face having government support removed.

On Wednesday, Mr Jenrick described the barge as “perfectly decent accommodation” that was similar to that used by British oil and gas workers – despite earlier warnings from the Fire Brigades Union that the vessel was a “death trap”.

But speaking to Sky News, Dr Bharat Pankhania, senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter, disputed Mr Jenrick’s comparison.

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Barge ‘is perfectly decent’ Asked how common it was for the bacteria to be present, Dr Pankhania said: “They should not be present in a place like that and when Robert Jenrick says we house oil workers on similar barges, he is definitely not comparing like with like.

“When you accommodate oil workers…there wouldn’t be 500. And when you have a large number of people accommodated you need better plumbing systems so the water temperature is maintained at the right temperature.”

Dr Pankhania said the disease would most likely have spread through the showers used on the vessel.

He said those most likely to be negatively affected were older people, smokers, and those who are immune suppressed.

The campaign group No to the Barge said: “This was inevitable because of the poor advance planning and preparation, the rush, and people in power with little knowledge pushing the experts to break rules, for example, Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service.

“This is just another example of the haphazard, incompetent way our government has approached this scheme from start to finish. Robert Jenrick promised the country that Bibby Stockholm was absolutely safe; he should stand down with immediate effect.”

Read more on the Bibby Stockholm:

What’s it like inside the barge?

Asylum seekers face withdrawal of government support if they don’t board barge

The capacity for the barge is more than 500 and has been hailed by the government as a deterrent against small boat crossings.

However, in a further blow to Rishi Sunak, the number of people who have crossed the English Channel in small boats in the past five years has now passed 100,000.

The latest Home Office figures showed 755 migrants were detected in the Channel on Thursday, the highest daily figure so far this year.

However, the total number of small boat arrivals so far this year is around 15% below the equivalent number at this point last year.

The Bibby Stockholm is one of a number of alternative sites the Home Office is using to end reliance on expensive hotels for asylum seekers, which the government says is costing £6m a day.

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Barge reminds migrant of Islamic State There has been considerable local opposition due to concerns about the asylum seekers’ welfare and the impact on local services.

The opening of the vessel has been beset by a number of delays including initially around fire safety concerns and then because of working practices for port authority workers.

On Tuesday, one asylum seeker said living on the Bibby Stockholm would remind him of hiding from the Islamic State group.

Two other vessels set to house 1,000 asylum seekers were unable to find anywhere to dock and have been returned to their owners.