“Ridiculous” and “Disgraceful”… This is how British newspapers described the government’s decision to evacuate the barge “Bibby Stockholm”, on Friday, August 11, with 39 migrants on board, who had been transferred to it a few days earlier, after discovering a potentially deadly bacteria in the water system.
The discovery of the contamination of the barge’s water with Legionella bacteria, which causes severe pneumonia, raised great indignation and many questions, as it was found from tests conducted before transferring the immigrants to the barge, that there were high levels of these bacteria in the water of the barge’s pipes, which necessitated the evacuation of the barge from 39 immigrants who were transferred the same week as a precautionary measure, according to the British newspaper The Telegraph.
According to the British newspaper, these events angered many British MPs, who described the situation as “ridiculous” and “disgraceful”.
Questions have been raised about why the migrants were allowed to board the barge before the results of the bacterial tests were obtained in the first place, and why some asylum-seekers were transferred to the barge, even after officials at the Home Office were informed of the detection of traces of Legionella bacteria on the barge.
The Dorset County Council had informed the Home Office about the presence of the bacteria since Monday, 7 August.
The evacuation of the barge also means a new delay in its commissioning, after previous delays due to security concerns and local opposition. It deals a blow to the British government’s plan, which was drawn up last March, which included the transfer of up to 5,000 asylum seekers to three former military sites, namely “Wethersfield” in Essex, “Scampton” in Lincolnshire, and “Bexhill” in East Sussex. There were also talks of transferring asylum seekers to the “Catterick Garrison” base in Yorkshire.
Bibby Stockholm is a key part of the government’s efforts to reduce the £6m-a-day cost of staying in government hotels, but these efforts appear to have been met with problems, from delayed repairs to worrying health discoveries.
Under these circumstances, failure to provide a safe and healthy environment for asylum seekers, whose numbers are increasing at a rapid rate, can exacerbate the psychological problems of these individuals, as dozens of asylum seekers refused to transfer to the barge, due to the psychological trauma they suffer from and a severe fear of water, since many of them almost drowned or witnessed the drowning of their friends during the crossing to Britain.
They are afraid of residing on a ship at sea, and the government has threatened to withdraw their residency rights if they continue to refuse, but human rights organizations believe that this procedure is inhumane and inconsistent with international conventions.
The CEO of Care4Calais believes, “Having anyone in a floating prison like ‘Bibby Stockholm’ is inhumane, and trying to do that with this group of people is incredibly cruel, even just receiving notices causes them a lot of anxiety.”
In the period between 1994 and 1998, the “Bibby Stockholm” barge was used in Germany to house immigrants and homeless people, and the Netherlands used it in 2005 to house refugees.
On board the barge, many quarrels and rapes were recorded. In 2008, two Arabs died as a result of the poor health care.
Figures indicate that the number of migrants crossing the Channel has surpassed 100,000 since 2018, highlighting the growing pressure on the system, as well as the need for the matter to be dealt with in a more humane and effective manner, according to The Guardian.