Housing refugees and torture survivors on the Bibby Stockholm in Portland Port is this government’s latest cruel and hostile refugee policy. Read below for everything you need to know.
What links a barge, this government and refugees?
In April this year, this government announced their plans to house people seeking safety that are waiting to hear about their asylum claim, on the Bibby Stockholm – a barge docked in Portland Port.
The Bibby Stockholm previously housed refugees in the Netherlands, 20 years ago. This government says it has brought the barge back into use as part of its plan to increase offshore accommodation and reduce the reliance on hotels.
Fire risks, deadly bacteria and a mental health catastrophe: this government’s failed barge experiment is a human rights disaster.
Why is it a human rights disaster?
From the outset of these plans, human rights groups, as well as local leaders and public figures have vocalised their opposition to housing refugees on the Bibby Stockholm.
Shortly after the first 39 people were housed on the barge, the deadliest strain of Legionella Bacteria – which can cause a harmful lung infection – was found in the water on board. And people were kept on board for four days until action was taken.
Numerous legal challenges were launched against these plans, including from the Fire Brigades Union over fire safety concerns.
It took the government more than two months to re-house people on the barge while they put further safety measures in place. But we believe no one should ever be placed back on the Bibby Stockholm, especially people who have fled war and torture.
How would this plan impact torture survivors?
Our expert clinicians have also urged this government to rethink this use of isolated and hostile accommodation for refugees and torture survivors.
“For many of these people, being on the water will inevitably lead to re-traumatisation. I can state without a doubt that the use of barges as sites to house refugees who have fled war and torture is totally inappropriate. Conditions are bound to be cramped and overcrowded and may be reminiscent of the places of detention in which they were tortured, which can lead to re-triggering of the trauma.”
“Every day we speak to survivors in our therapy rooms who describe the horror, isolation and hopelessness that they feel from being housed in these kinds of dangerous accommodations. I can’t stress enough how this is a mental and physical health catastrophe waiting to happen.”
What’s the solution?
We know that housing people seeking safety on a barge is cruel, dangerous, and unnecessary. That’s why we're standing against this plan.
But it’s also a completely ineffective way of dealing with the unacceptable use of hotels as asylum accommodation. The fact is the barge is a distraction from the government’s most urgent and embarrassing problem: the unjustifiable backlog in asylum decisions that has left so many people in limbo, forced to live in unsuitable accommodation and denied the opportunity to rebuild their lives in safety.
The answer is simple: grant all those whose claims are clearly well-founded and have been waiting for years for a decision (as the government has already started doing under the Streamlined Asylum Process); rebuild an asylum system capable of making the right decision quickly; and work with local authorities, charities and local communities to find suitable homes for all refugees.
How can we stop this?
We know that the majority of people believe refugees and torture survivors should be treated with dignity and compassion, and that people power can stop these cruel plans.
We have a number of ways you can take action – write to Portland Port's CEO, or donate today to help us continue fighting for a fair and compassionate asylum system and challenge cruel government policies like the use of the Bibby Stockholm barge.