'We've done well to stand up the barge': Home Secretary defends use of 'safe' Bibby Stockholm

20 September 2023, 08:33 | Updated: 20 September 2023, 09:25

Suella Braverman 'confident' about safety of Bibby Stockholm migrant barge

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The Home Secretary has told LBC she is 'confident' in the safety of the Bibby Stockholm migrant barge, despite an outbreak of Legionella bacteria which caused migrants to be removed after speaking just four days aboard.

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Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, the Home Secretary Suella Braverman has said they have "done well to stand up the barge."

This is despite the first set of migrants to board the boat being taken off within just days due to an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease.

The empty vessel, moored off the Dorset Coast, was supposed to house 500 migrants, but only 39 moved onto the barge last month, before being taken off four days later after Legionella bacteria was found in the water supply.

Nick asked the Home Secretary when the barge would be in use again and why it is not currently being used.

Read more: Suella Braverman: Rwanda is a 'world-beating' model on tackling migrant crisis

Read more: Empty Bibby Stockholm barge cost taxpayers more than £560,000 - enough to clear 1,000 asylum claims in backlog

Ms Braverman said there was disappointment people had to be taken off the barge in August, but officials were carrying out all the "necessary checks and authorisations and once those are completed we will be re-embarking people as soon as possible."

"What takes so long, what is the problem there?" Nick demanded.

Describing the situation as a "complex issue," the Home Secretary said she thinks "we've done very well to stand up the barge" as she went on to explain further measures to house migrants.

Ms Braverman said while there were still "various procedures" that needed to be completed, she was "confident in the safety" of the vessel.

Read more: Rishi Sunak defends Bibby Stockholm migrant barge despite legionella bacteria discovery

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made stopping the boats crossing the English Channel one of his top five priorities ahead of a likely general election next year.

Since he entered 10 Downing Street, provisional figures suggest at least 31,000 asylum seekers have crossed the Channel, while almost 24,000 have arrived in 2023, Home Office statistics show.

Drone footage shows asylum seekers boarding the Bibby Stockholm

The Home Office is paying "around £8 million" per day for asylum seekers to be put up in hotels, according to the department's annual accounts.

The figure is higher than the £6 million daily cost cited by Home Secretary Suella Braverman in the Commons on Monday.

Labour's home affairs spokeswoman Yvette Cooper said the bill for hotels was "astronomical" and accused the Tories of failing to grip the issue of unlawful migration.

The department's annual report and accounts for 2022-23, published on Tuesday, said the arrival of small boats of migrants across the Channel was placing an "unsustainable pressure on our asylum system and accommodation services", costing taxpayers more than £3 billion a year.

James O'Brien gives his view as migrants board the Bibby Stockholm

The Conservative UK Government passed the Illegal Migration Act in July, which is designed to give powers to deport asylum seekers arriving via unauthorised routes either back to their home country or to Rwanda.

The £140 million deal to send migrants to the East Africa nation, however, is held up in the courts, with a deportation flight yet to leave the runway.

The Act, according to the Home Office's annual report, "goes further than ever before" to prevent the arrival of small boats but said "legislative changes take time and there is no single silver bullet".

It added: "In the meantime, we must take action to address the unacceptable costs of housing migrants in hotels which is costing the taxpayer around £8 million a day."

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