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Migrants to be moved back onto Bibby Stockholm after Home Office paid £300,000 a week for empty barge
10 October 2023, 14:57 | Updated: 10 October 2023, 14:59
Migrants who were moved off the Bibby Stockholm after legionella bacteria was found onboard have been told they will be moved back onto the controversial barge.
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In August, 39 migrants were moved off the Bibby Stockholm after it emerged that traces of legionella bacteria had been found in its water supply.
Those onboard were quickly moved off the barge, which is docked in Portland, Dorset, and into replacement accommodation.
The government has now started sending letters to the migrants who were previously onboard to confirm they will soon be moved back on.
While no exact date has been given for when they should expect to return, the barge is now reportedly clear of legionella after receiving “satisfactory” test results.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “The Home Office has started to send letters to asylum seekers to confirm the re-embarkation of the Bibby Stockholm and notify them that they will be accommodated on board, following the vessel completing all necessary tests.
“The letters confirm the next steps for asylum seekers and reiterate that all asylum accommodation continues to be offered on a no-choice basis.
“Delivering alternative accommodation sites, such as the vessel, 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.”
The boat is understood to have cost around £300,000 a week while it has been empty, according to iNews.
Migrants had to be moved off after the bacteria was found as a “precautionary” measure, as it can cause Legionnaires' disease, a lung infection that causes flu-like symptoms, coughs, chest pain and shortness of breath.
They were being housed on the barge as part of government plans to grapple with soaring levels of migrant arrivals in the UK.
It is designed to be cheaper than paying for hotels across the country, which has proved controversial with some communities and even led to some being targeted by protesters.
The expected return of migrants to the barge comes ahead of a hearing set to take place in the High Court on Tuesday with Portland Town councillor, Carralyn Parkes.
Ms Parkes is asking the court to consider whether a legal charge against the barge about where it has docked, without planning permission, can go ahead.
The Home Office also confirmed on Tuesday it is scrapping plans to house hundreds of asylum seekers in a former hotel in Carmarthenshire.
Local residents raised fears the building might not be suitable for the facility and the fire service put a prohibition order on the building saying it is unsuitable as accommodation in its current form.
Carmarthenshire council confirmed on Tuesday that the Home Office has withdrawn its plans.