Liverpool maritime firm Bibby Line Group defends use of its barge Bibby Stockholm for housing asylum-seekers saying ‘we stand behind the quality’ of the vessel. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool maritime firm Bibby Line Group insists its Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge is suitable for the temporary housing of asylum-seekers.
Bibby Stockholm is currently moored at Portland in Dorset. In early August the Government started to house asylum seekers on the vessel.
However, a few days later the 39 men were taken off when traces of the deadly legionella bug were discovered.
The Home Office hopes to house around 500 people on the barge once the all-clear has been given. It has chartered the 222-room floating structure for 18 months.
It was previously used to accommodate homeless people and asylum seekers in Germany and the Netherlands.
“We are pleased to confirm that the latest tests have shown that there are no health risks from legionella on the Bibby Stockholm, with individuals set to return to the barge in due course,” the Home Office said this week.
“The welfare of asylum seekers is of paramount importance. It is right we went above and beyond UK Health Security Agency advice and disembarked asylum seekers as a precautionary measure whilst the issue was investigated.”
There has been significant opposition to the use of the barge for housing asylum-seekers. Human rights group Amnesty International compared it to “prison hulks from the Victorian era”.
It added that this was an “utterly shameful way to house people who’ve fled terror, conflict and persecution”.
Portland mayor Carralyn Parkes has launched legal action as a private citizen, claiming the Home Office should have obtained planning permission for the accommodation.
She argues the scheme was designed to deliberately bypass rules that would apply on land, putting it beyond safeguards such as overcrowding controls. Her challenge will be heard in the Royal Courts of Justice in October.
Bibby Line Group is one of Liverpool’s oldest businesses. It was established as a shipping company in Liverpool in 1807. Based at Exchange Flags in the city centre it is now a diverse international business.
Bibby Stockholm is one of a number of vessels owned by its Bibby Marine division. In the last few days the company has filed its annual accounts on Companies House.
Although covering the fiscal year to December 31, 2022, the report addresses the controversy over the use of the barge.
It said: “It would be remiss at this point, not to mention Bibby Stockholm, which has been chartered to provide accommodation for people seeking asylum in the UK. The press has reported a variety of positions on the use of accommodation barges for this purpose.
“Our position is clear – we stand behind the quality of the solution we are providing.
“The accommodation is safe and functional having been used to house shipyard engineers and US Navy personnel within the last few years, and as such, we believe it’s suitable for anyone with a temporary need for accommodation.”