Bibby Stockholm workers hired by government knew about Legionella on barge 'the day migrants moved in'

14 August 2023, 06:17 | Updated: 14 August 2023, 06:19

Migrants have been evacuated from the Bibby Stockholm
Migrants have been evacuated from the Bibby Stockholm. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Contractors hired by the government to staff the Bibby Stockholm were told about legionella on board the day the first migrants moved in, the local council has said.

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All 39 people who boarded the barge, docked in Portland, were moved off on Friday after the discovery of the potentially-deadly bacteria in the water supply.

Dorset Council has now said it informed the "responsible organisations", barge operators CTM and Landry & Kling, about the preliminary test results on Monday, the same day it received them.

That means some migrants were exposed to the bacteria for four days.

A Home Office official was then told about the discovery on Tuesday, the council said, but Government sources said ministers did not know about the presence of the bacteria until Thursday.

A council spokesperson said: "To be clear, it was not Dorset Council's responsibility to inform the Home Office - that responsibility sat with CTM and Landry & King, the companies contracted by the Home Office to operate the barge."

Read more: Migrants moved off Bibby Stockholm just days after boarding as Legionella bacteria found in the water

Read more: Asylum seeker torture survivor says legionella-hit Bibby Stockholm reminds him of unsanitary ‘refugee camp’

The Bibby Stockholm
The Bibby Stockholm. Picture: Alamy

The Home Office did not comment on the statement, first reported by The Telegraph. CTM and Landry & Kling have also been contacted for comment.

Legionella bacteria can cause Legionnaires' disease, a lung infection that causes flu-like symptoms, coughs, chest pain and shortness of breath.

In extreme cases, it can lead to people coughing up blood.

None of the people on board have shown any symptoms yet, but they have used the water supply.

Bibby Stockholm
Bibby Stockholm. Picture: Alamy

Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock wrote to his opposite number on Saturday asking what the Home Office knew about the risk of the bacteria being present before moving migrants onto the barge.

Former Brexit secretary David Davis said the barge would not serve as a "solution" to the backlog even without the presence of the bacteria.

He said: "The primary thing that's been revealed has been the startling incompetence of the Home Office itself... It's really, really hard to understand how, at all layers, this could not be caught early".

The senior Conservative MP suggested the problems could be related to "management" of the department rather than "ministerial" issues specifically, but added: "Even working properly, the Bibby barge would only take effectively one day's arrivals.

"So it's not a solution to the problem and all of this is going to go on until the Home Office is able to process these arrivals more quickly."

Tim Loughton said the evacuation was an "embarrassment" and smacked of "incompetence," coming at the end of a week in which the Government had planned a series of announcements aimed at promoting its immigration approach.

The Tory MP told the Telegraph: "This is deeply troubling and rapidly turning into a farce that the Home Office can ill afford."

Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge at Portland Port in Dorset, where asylum seekers are being removed due to the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water supply
Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge at Portland Port in Dorset, where asylum seekers are being removed due to the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water supply. Picture: Alamy
Home Secretary Suella Braverman
Home Secretary Suella Braverman. Picture: Getty

Conservative backbenchers have accused the Home Office of "incompetence" after the legionella incident.

But the government still plans to expand its fleet of floating migrant barges, as well as office and student accommodation blocks.

It comes after six migrants died while crossing the English Channel in the early hours of Saturday morning.

All six migrants were Afghan men, French authorities said.

More than 50 people were rescued from the ship that was crossing the channel, including children.

A patrol boat told authorities that a migrant boat was sinking off the French town of Sangatte at around 4am on Saturday, France's Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea said.

Local mayor Franck Dhersin said dozens of boats were trying to make the crossing at the same time.

Read More: Asylum seeker torture survivor says legionella-hit Bibby Stockholm reminds him of unsanitary ‘refugee camp’

Read More: Migrants moved off Bibby Stockholm just days after boarding as Legionella bacteria found in the water

Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge at Portland Port in Dorset
Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge at Portland Port in Dorset. Picture: Alamy

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