Fears Bibby Stockholm migrant barge could become 'floating Grenfell' due to lack of fire safety protocols

31 July 2023, 11:12 | Updated: 31 July 2023, 13:53

The Bibby Stockholm is yet to be approved by fire service
The Bibby Stockholm is yet to be approved by fire service. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

There are fears the Bibby Stockholm migrant barge could become a "floating Grenfell" after recent fire checks raised serious safety concerns.

The controversial migrant barge had been set to accept its first 50 asylum seekers on Tuesday, but the local fire service has not yet given it its stamp of approval amid safety concerns.

More than 500 migrants are expected to be house on the Bibby Stockholm, more than double its 222-person capacity. There will also be 40 additional staff members on board.

There are now serious safety concerns given the barge's layout, which comprises 222 cabins of long, narrow corridors over three decks. There are two primary exits on board.

A source told The Times that a fire safety check carried out last week sparked safety concerns, while another source described the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service as "very critical on a number of safety issues".

The Bibby Stockholm arrived in Dorset earlier this month
The Bibby Stockholm arrived in Dorset earlier this month. Picture: Getty
Inside the Bibby Stockholm barge
Inside the Bibby Stockholm barge. Picture: Getty

A Home Office spokesman said: "The Bibby Stockholm is undergoing final preparations to ensure it complies with all appropriate regulations before the arrival of the first asylum seekers.

"The Home Office is working with stakeholders on a carefully structured plan to increase the number of asylum seekers at Wethersfield."

Fire safety manager Graham Kewley added: "We have provided advice and comment in relation to fire safety arrangements to both the Home Office and the vessels operators during our familiarisation and pre-occupation visits.

"The fire risk assessment is the appropriate mechanism for determining the planning, organisation, management and control of fire safety measures, and responsibility rests with CTM (Corporate Travel Management) and Landry & Kling as the vessel operator - under their contract with the Home Office - to produce and keep this document under review.

"We do not conduct fire risk assessments or provide an approval process prior to occupation of a premises but will exercise our enforcement powers (either formal or informal) to address any significant areas of non-compliance where necessary.

"It would be inappropriate for DWFRS to provide further detail on the specific systems and emergency plans in place, as these could impact upon the safety of the vessel and/or its occupants. This aligns with our approach to any other commercial or residential premises."

Read More: It’s basic and clean, but the migrant barge Bibby Stockholm will feel very different with 500 people on board

Read More: Suella Braverman buys ‘marquees’ to house 2,000 Channel migrants in emergency bid to avoid hotel costs

The barge is one of a number of accommodation sites that will be used to house migrants in a bid reduce the cost of housing them in hotels.

Other sites include RAF Scrampton, a former Dambusters headquarters bassed in Lincolnshire, where plans to move people in have been delayed until October.

Landry and Kling, the company that manages the barge, told the publication there are no plans to carry out fire drills as migrants may have faced "traumatic situations" on their way to the UK.

The evacuation point for migrants on board has been described as "completely inadequate", with warnings there could be a "Hillsborough-type crush".

It is now understood plans to house migrants on the barge from tomorrow face being delayed amid the fire safety concerns.

Protests take place in Dorset over Bibby Stockholm

The 93-metre long barge arrived at the docks in Dorset earlier in July after completing its final journey from Falmouth to Portland.

Footage taken by LBC shows inside the accommodation vessel and what asylum seekers set to board the vessel later this month can expect on their three to nine months on board, according to the Home Office.

The bedroom shows a single-sized bunk bed, en-suite bathroom and a desk with a chair
The bedroom shows a single-sized bunk bed, en-suite bathroom and a desk with a chair. Picture: LBC

Ahead of its arrival, the government described the divisive new home for migrants as “basic and functional accommodation” and designed to “minimise the need to leave”.Upon entrance, the barge has a reception and a security check-in.

The barge has 222 bedrooms. One bedroom offers a single-sized bunk bed, a desk with a chair, a small screen TV, a wardrobe and large window overlooking the rest of the dock.

Inside the bedroom is also an en-suite wet room, with a toilet, sink and mirror.

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