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Bibby Stockholm barge: Man who lived on vessel in the past says it’s ‘cramped’ and ‘claustrophobic’ | UK News

A man who previously lived on the Bibby Stockholm has described the barge as “cramped” and “claustrophobic” and doesn’t believe it’s a suitable place to house asylum seekers.

Glasgow councillor Ruairi Kelly said the vessel could “negatively exacerbate” the physical and mental health issues of those on board.

Mr Kelly lived on the barge while it was moored in Lerwick Harbour, Shetland, in 2013 and 2014, while working in the gas industry.

He described the barge as small with “cramped conditions”, adding that the rooms do not get a lot of light.

Mr Kelly told Sky News: “The rooms are only like 12ft by 12ft, so they’re quite small. You know that sort of claustrophobic [feel with] narrow corridors.

“It all feels very much like a ship.”

The Bibby Stockholm is the government’s latest plan to “stop the boats” and deter dangerous Channel crossings by migrants.

It is one of a number of alternative sites the Home Office is using to end reliance on expensive hotels for asylum seekers, which the government says is costing around £6m a day.

Up to 500 men will be able to live on the 222-bedroom barge at Portland Port, Dorset, while they await the outcome of their asylum applications.

The first group boarded last Monday but were removed on Friday after Legionella bacteria was found in the vessel’s water system.

It has led to one asylum seeker who was taken off the barge telling Sky the government is “endangering” migrants and treating them like “less than animals”.

Mr Kelly’s stints on the barge lasted around six months to a year while he was working on the Laggan-Tormore gas development.

He worked three weeks on, one week off, and said the vessel “was fine” for those who were on shift for 12-14 hours a day.

The now SNP councillor said: “You were really only on the barge to eat and sleep.

“If you wanted to go out, like for the weekend or to watch the football or whatever, you could go into the town.

“Which is obviously quite [a different situation] from being on it indefinitely with no money and no ability to work or anything like that.”

Mr Kelly said some of the workers found the situation “difficult in general”, adding: “And we were getting paid to be there and you knew you were going home to your friends and family at the end of your three-week rotation.”

Mr Kelly said the “cramped conditions” could “negatively exacerbate” the physical and mental health issues of those onboard.

He said many applications could take years to process, adding: “People will be coming from traumatic circumstances, potentially fleeing war or persecution.

“To have on top of all that be put in a situation like this – where you could be there with 500 other people in a similar situation from all different backgrounds and cultures – probably not a lot of thought has been given to what that does to somebody’s mental or physical health.”

Read more:
What it’s like inside the barge?
Rishi Sunak still has ‘confidence’ in home secretary despite Legionella discovery
Glasgow City Council says it would oppose any plan for asylum seeker barge

Mr Kelly cited the Park Inn stabbings in Glasgow in June 2020.

Asylum seeker Badreddin Abdalla Adam Bosh, 28, was shot dead after stabbing six people at the hotel.

An internal Home Office evaluation, seen by the BBC last year, found that Bosh had contacted the Home Office, contractor Mears and charity Migrant Help 72 times about his health and accommodation in the period leading up to the attack.

Mr Kelly said there was “a lot more support” and things to do in Glasgow, but it still ended in tragedy.

Speaking about the Bibby Stockholm, he said: “I wouldn’t like to think now what could happen on that facility.”

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Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has criticised the government’s handling of the asylum system, asserting that it’s ‘broken and needs fundamental reform’

Sky News has contacted the Home Office for comment.

The Home Office previously said the current asylum system is under “extreme pressure” and is costing the UK £3bn per year, including around £6m a day on hotel accommodation.

A spokesperson said: “The Home Office has a statutory obligation to provide accommodation for asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute while we consider their claim.

“The significant increase in illegal, unnecessary and dangerous Channel crossings has put our asylum system under incredible strain and made it necessary to continue to use hotels to accommodate some asylum seekers.

“We are committed to making every effort to reduce hotel use and continue to engage with local authorities as early as possible whenever sites are used for asylum accommodation.”

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