The Jesuit Refugee Service described the placing of asylum seekers back on Bibby Stockholm as “cruel and dangerous” after the government went ahead with plans to accommodate people seeking asylum on the barge moored in Portland Port, Dorset. It is thought 21 asylum seekers re-boarded the barge on 19 October, after 39 were evacuated two months ago when Legionella bacteria was discovered. The Home Office said all necessary health tests have been completed on the floating vessel.
Bishop Paul McAleenan, lead bishop for migrants and refugees, told The Tablet, “Pope Francis recently prayed for migrants and refugees with the delegates of the Synod. He reminded us of the parable of the Good Samaritan urging each of us to treat the stranger with compassion. He then reiterated that migrants and refugees should always be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated.
“This is at the forefront of my mind when considering the men returning to the Bibby Stockholm barge. I would remind the government of our responsibility to uphold the fundamental human dignity of each person who arrives on our shores, and this includes the provision of decent and safe accommodation.”
The arrivals at the barge on 19 October were greeted with protests. Stand up against Racism Dorset provided shampoo, toothpaste, notebooks and a map of the local area in welcome bags.
The JRS said that people will be housed in an overcrowded, prison-like space with few facilities and limited freedom of movement will be very limited, posing a risk of re-trauma to people seeking sanctuary.
The vessel has capacity for up to 500 men awaiting the outcome of asylum applications.