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UK barge migrant says government treating them worse than animals

August 15, 2023 at 1:32 pm

A group of supportive demonstrators welcome asylum-seekers as they are transferred to the Bibby Stockholm, a barge turned into a temporary housing, at the Portland Harbour in Dorset, United Kingdom on August 07, 2023 [Raşid Necati Aslım/Anadolu Agency]

An asylum seeker who was among those removed from the Bibby Stockholm barge after the Legionella bacteria was found in the on-board water system said that the government is endangering migrants and treating them like “less than animals,” local media reported on Monday.

Controversy over the government’s barge plan continued after all of the asylum seekers were moved off the barge on Friday. It is moored at Portland Port in Dorset.

The report of bacteria came three days after the Home Office announced that the first group of asylum seekers was housed on the barge after health and safety checks were completed.

Speaking to Sky News, one of the migrants who was among those removed from the barge said that he is worried about falling ill after consuming the water on board. “We bathe with it, we drink it. We were told at 6pm on Friday,” said the man, whose name was not mentioned in the report. “They should have been sure it is habitable. Why not wait for the result and be sure everything is okay? We are being treated like less than animals. They are endangering us.”

The first group of asylum seekers was housed on the three-storey barge on 7 August. Some others refused to move to it. 

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“I’m deeply sad. Because if they had cared about us enough, if they had known since Monday, they shouldn’t have put us there,” the man pointed out. He described the barge as like “being in a prison, because the security is too much. There’s no freedom. For me, I have a fear of water. I can’t swim. Me being on water, my heart palpitates. I can’t sleep.”

The Bibby Stockholm is one of the vessels that has been procured by the government to help accommodate 5,000 asylum seekers in a bid to lower hotel and other accommodation costs. The controversial plan aims to house up to 500 men aged 18-65 on the barge who are waiting for the results of their asylum applications. 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has listed tackling small boat crossings as one of his five priorities after over 45,000 migrants arrived in the country by crossing the English Channel from France last year.