- All 39 asylum seekers onboard Bibby Stockholm barge were evacuated today
- It comes after first 15 men boarded vessel in Portland, Dorset, just four days ago
This the moment asylum seekers were driven away from the Bibby Stockholm after deadly legionella bacteria was found in the migrant barge’s water system.
All 39 migrants onboard the controversial vessel were evacuated today - just four days after the first 15 men stepped onto it in Portland, Dorset - and are being moved to the same hotel, according to The Independent.
A 40-seater coach, which had been shuttling migrants to and from Weymouth, was seen leaving today. Inside were two men sat in the middle who turned their faces away from onlookers at the port.
Other footage of the Bibby Stockholm showed people arriving and leaving this afternoon - with ten people seen walking up a ramp and entering while others left.
Routine tests of the barge’s water supply were reportedly carried out on July 25 but the results only came back when asylum seekers began boarding the barge on Monday, according to Sky News. The results showed levels of legionella bacteria ’which require further investigation’.
Home Office sources say they were not made aware of the results until Wednesday, with further tests being carried out on Thursday.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) advised the Government on Thursday evening to remove all six people that arrived on the Bibby Stockholm that day, but the Home Office decided to evacuate all 39 as a precaution.
The harmful bacteria can cause a serious lung infection called Legionnaires’ disease, which can happen when breathing in tiny droplets of water containing the bacteria.
Although nobody onboard had shown symptoms of the disease, officials insisted that all migrants be disembarked while further assessments are carried out.
A letter from the Home Office that was leaked to the Guardian has reportedly informed asylum seekers that they will be tested for Legionnaires diseases if they do begin to show symptoms.
The migrants will be taken to hotels which are said to be far from Weymouth, where few rooms are available during the height of the school summer holidays.
One Syrian migrant onboard the barge told MailOnline this afternoon that he had not been given any information and had not been told to leave. He said: ’The place is very empty but no one has said anything to us. We will have to wait and see, but it is worrying.’
But the migrants were later told they would be evacuated. It comes after health officials ordered six new arrivals to be removed yesterday.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick is said to be holding meetings to discuss the barge, which the Government hoped would house up to 500 migrants. Local councillors have vowed not to see the boat back in use.
With a capacity of up to 506, the Government is still hoping that use of the Bibby Stockholm, together with former military bases, will help reduce the £6million a day it is spending on hotel bills for asylum seekers.
But opponents have claimed the barge is unsafe and a ’floating prison’, while lawyers of some migrants due to board this week have successfully argued to allow them to stay in hotels.
It was only four days ago that the first 15 men were taken onboard the vessel.
Support workers, who have spoken to some on board, claimed the asylum seekers were not being kept informed about what was happening.
Heather Jones, of the Portland Friendship Group which is supporting the migrants, said: ’I have had texts and phone conversations from some of them and they are still on board, they haven’t been evacuated yet.
’Nobody has told them anything. They have had to ask me what the problem is. One of them was really concerned because he had just drunk a glass of water and he was asking me if he was going to be OK.
’I told him it is probably a precautionary measure but they shouldn’t be hearing it from me.
’They don’t know where they are being taken to. Hopefully it will be back to the hotels where they have come from.’
There was a small group of campaigners from Stand Up To Racism at the port entrance holding placards saying ’Legionella death trap’ and ’human rights’.
Lynne Hubbard, from the group, said: ’The Home Office have admitted they carried on admitting asylum seekers on the barge even though they found out about legionella on Monday.
’They would have been drinking the water and showering in it. That shows pretty clearly what the Government thinks of asylum seekers and how much they value their lives. They are heartless.
’An asylum seeker in there we are in contact with told us to get in touch with his family in case he dies of Legionella. That’s how frightened they are.’
A local Portland councillor slammed the health crisis as a ’farce’ this afternoon.
Paul Kimbdr, an independent councillor, said he thought the outbreak would mean the end of the barge being used to house asylum seekers.
’I just can’t see it being back in use. It’s all been a bit of a farce really,’ he told MailOnline.
A Home Office spokesman told MailOnline today: ’The health and welfare of individuals on the vessel is our utmost priority.
’Environmental samples from the water system on the Bibby Stockholm have shown levels of legionella bacteria which require further investigation.
’Following these results, the Home Office has been working closely with UKHSA (the UK Health Security Agency) and following its advice in line with long established public health processes, and ensuring all protocol from Dorset Council’s Environmental Health team and Dorset NHS is adhered to.
’As a precautionary measure, all 39 asylum seekers who arrived on the vessel this week are being disembarked while further assessments are undertaken.
’No individuals on board have presented with symptoms of Legionnaires’, and asylum seekers are being provided with appropriate advice and support.
’The samples taken relate only to the water system on the vessel itself and therefore carry no direct risk indication for the wider community of Portland nor do they relate to fresh water entering the vessel. Legionnaires’ disease does not spread from person to person.’
Mr Jenrick has previously described the barge as ’perfectly decent accommodation’, but asylum seekers who have spent four nights onboard have contrasting views.
While one Afghan compared it to the former US maximum security prison Alcatraz, others have said it was ’cramped but comfortable’ with lots of facilities.
MailOnline understands that the legionella bacteria is believed to have come from the pipes on the vessel – with tests of the water at point of entry coming back with no indication of legionella.
Six asylum seekers arrived on the barge yesterday, and the UK Health Security Agency last night advised the Home Office to remove this group.
Home Office sources have insisted that the removal of everyone was a ’further temporary precaution’ aimed to ’reduce the health risk as much as possible’.
The Home Office is now awaiting the results of follow-up tests which have been carried out on the water system by Dorset Council environmental health officers.
The UK Health Security Agency will then provide additional advice.
Sources added that it was not unusual to identify legionella bacteria in warm water systems, which is why they are often subject to regular testing in buildings.
A Dorset Council spokesman said: ’Dorset Council’s environmental health team and Public Health Dorset are advising the Home Office and its contractors, alongside the UK Health Security Agency and NHS Dorset, following notification of positive samples of Legionella bacteria in the water system on the Bibby Stockholm barge.
’No individuals have presented symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease, and there is no health risk to the wider community of Portland.’
It is understood that the Home Office is managing the search for alternative accommodation for the asylum seekers.
Dr Laurence Buckman, former chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP Committee, told GB News today: ’If you’re unlucky and your immunity isn’t really tip-top, there is a risk that you will get legionella pneumonia and die from it.
’It’s potentially treatable but of course you have to diagnose it first. It lives in water supplies. It lives in sink traps, so a U-bend of a sink will be a problem, and it lives in air conditioning units.
’That’s why we have what are called ’scrubbers’ in air conditioning units to wipe out the legionella before the air gets blown onto other people, and why hospitals that get legionella in their sinks have a really big problem. At worst, they have to take the sinks out and replace them and the pipework that goes with them.’
Steve Smith, chief executive of the charity Care4Calais, said: ’We have always known our concerns over the health and safety of the barge are justified, and this latest mismanagement proves our point.
’The Bibby Stockholm is a visual illustration of this Government’s hostile environment against refugees, but it has also fast become a symbol for the shambolic incompetence which has broken Britain’s asylum system.
’The Government should now realise warehousing refugees in this manner is completely untenable, and should focus on the real job at hand - processing the asylum claims swiftly, so refugees may become contributing members of our communities as they so strongly wish.’
Meanwhile Fire Brigades Union general secretary Ben Selby said the outbreak suggested it was ’only a matter of time before either lives are lost or there is serious harm to a detainee.’
He said: ’The Fire Brigades Union warned the Home Secretary that forcibly holding migrants on this barge was a huge health and safety risk.
’This outbreak of Legionella suggests that it’s only a matter of time before either lives are lost or there is serious harm to a detainee.’
And Alex Bailey, a spokesman for the No To The Barge campaign group, told MailOnline: ’This has become Fawlty Towers at sea.
’This was inevitable because of the poor advance planning and preparation, the rush and people in power with little knowledge and pushing the experts to break the rules.
’This is just another example of the incompetent way our Government has approached this scheme from start to finish. Robert Jenrick promised the country Bibbly Stockholm was safe. That is not the case.’
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: ’Across the country, most people want strong border security and a properly managed and controlled asylum system so the UK does its bit alongside other countries to help those who have fled persecution and conflict, while those who have no right to be here are swiftly returned.
’Under this Government, we have neither as gangs are undermining our border security and the asylum system is in chaos.’
And Kolbassia Haoussou, director of survivor empowerment at Freedom from Torture, said: ’The presence of life-threatening bacteria onboard the Bibby Stockholm is just another shocking revelation that we’ve seen unfold over the past few weeks. This Government’s punitive policies and deliberate neglect of the asylum system is not just cruel, it’s dangerous.’
Yesterday the Home Office denied the barge was a ’floating prison’ and insisted that those onboard would be ’free to come and go as they want’.
Gardening in nearby allotments and hiking tours of the area are among the activities which could be offered to those onboard.
Security measures include 18 guards trained to military standard who work around the clock.
In total, about 60 staff including cooks and cleaners will be on board the barge run by Landry and Kling, a sub-contractor of Corporate Travel Management (CTM) which also managed vessels in Scotland housing Ukrainians.
Spaghetti with meatballs, roast turkey, Irish stew and beef pie are on the sample menu to be served in the canteen by Dubai-headquartered offshore firm Connect Catering Services, alongside breakfast and a selection of snacks available 24 hours a day.
The gym, equipped with treadmills and weights, is still awaiting delivery of rowing machines and exercise bikes. Volleyball, basketball, netball and football can all be played in one of two outside courtyards.
Most of the 222 bedrooms have twin bunk beds, with cupboard space, a desk, en-suite bathroom, heating and windows which open. But there are also 20 larger rooms which would sleep four people, and two rooms housing six people.
The bedrooms all have televisions which the operator was told to disconnect but were too costly to remove so can be used only as monitors.
Instead, residents will be encouraged to socialise or watch programmes and films in one of four communal TV rooms, and can also learn English in a classroom and worship in a dedicated space. A small number of laptops are also available and there is Wi-Fi throughout the barge.