Creating new perspectives since 2009

Expert warns UK irregular migrant ship could cause epidemics, trauma

August 22, 2023 at 2:52 pm

An aerial view of the Bibby Stockholm immigration barge, on August 16, 2023 in Portland, England [Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images]

Experts are raising alarms over the “Bibby Stockholm” ship, which the UK plans to house irregular migrants, asserting that it falls short of meeting fundamental humanitarian standards, Anadolu Agency reports.

Sureyya Sonmez Efe, a Turkish researcher with expertise in the legal statuses and rights of migrant workers and a faculty member at Lincoln University’s International Relations Department, shared insights into the UK’s recent refugee policies and highlighted the potential physical and psychological ramifications the “Bibby Stockholm” ship, an accommodation vessel owned by the shipping and marine operations company, Bibby Line, could inflict on the 500 irregular migrants slated to be housed within it.

“In the wake of the Legionella bacteria outbreak, refugees, who were already receiving a modest allowance, were compelled to purchase water,” Efe said.

“The recent statement by the British Health Minister claimed that public health and humanitarian considerations are being taken into account during the accommodating process. However, problems such as the bacteria outbreak still raise concerns,” she noted.

READ: Health-risk bacteria forces UK to remove migrants from barge

She underlined that, aside from physical health issues, the cramped living conditions could give rise to a spectrum of psychological ailments, including post-traumatic stress disorder, and even outbreaks of epidemics.

“Some asylum seekers have expressed that accommodating 500 people in such confined quarters is a recipe for trouble. This, in the future, could potentially give rise to more significant issues by fostering the spread of epidemics,” the expert warned.

“A majority of the 15 refugees who initially entered this shelter likened it to a ‘prison.’ This analogy is indicative of the severe psychological impact they are likely to endure.”

Positioned in the Portland Harbour in southern England and built in 1976, the “Bibby Stockholm” ship has a history of diverse uses.

Previously utilised as a haven for irregular migrants and the homeless in Germany and the Netherlands, it also served as interim lodging for power plant construction workers in Scotland and Sweden.

However, concerns remain about its suitability for accommodating a significant number of migrants, with the potential for both physical and psychological health issues to emerge as a result.

READ: Despite health risks, British Health Secretary wants migrants back on floating barge