Barge to house migrants arrives in Dorset as local Conservative MP raises safety concerns

A controversial barge that is set to accommodate 500 asylum seekers has arrived in Dorset, despite the concerns raised by the local Conservative MP who argued the vessel may not be safe. 

One month behind schedule, the Bibby Stockholm departed Falmouth in Cornwall on Monday after the completion of refurbishment works.

The government has insisted that the use of a barge is a cheaper alternative to accommodating migrants in hotels, claiming the hotel bill to house them has hit £6 million a day.

It comes as a Conservative MP has demanded to see safety reports for the barge.

Chris Loder, the MP for West Dorset, claimed the above-quoted 500-person figure was double the capacity the barge had been designed to hold.

Mr Loder called on home secretary Suella Braverman to “stop” the vessel or provide the assessments that show it is “safe to cope with double the weight that it was designed to bear”.

As well as the barge, the government is using former military bases. There are also reports that large marquees could be used.

Mr Loder writes: “For months, I have been asking for sight of the safety risk assessments that should have been done to allow the Bibby Stockholm to be used in Portland Harbour with 500 people on board whilst it was designed for 250”.

“The Bibby Stockholm has now left Falmouth Dock. But visibility or assurances that adequate safety risk assessments have been completed have not been received.”

The MP also claimed that following a call with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, it was “clear they have also not undertaken that work, which we would typically expect them to do for a flagged vessel on water — which is what the Bibby Stockholm is”.

Mr Loder added: “I am writing to you this evening to ask that you either stop the Bibby Stockholm or that you provide the necessary safety risk assessments that confirm this vessel is safe to cope with double the weight that it was designed to bear.”

The 222-bedroom vessel is said to contain “basic” accommodation, with healthcare provision, catering facilities and 24/7 security. It comes at a reported cost of £20,000 a day, the Home Office said in May.

Dorset Council has been given £2m in a funding package to meet the cost of providing services to residents.

The arrival of the Bibby Stockholm in Dorset comes hours after the government’s illegal migration bill passed the Lords.

The flagship legislation is now heading for the statute books after an evening of voting saw Rishi Sunak succeed in stopping every proposed amendment.

MPs spent 90 minutes in the commons’ voting lobbies yesterday in order to reject nine major Lords amendments.

The illegal migration bill is set to give the home secretary powers to detain and swiftly deport any person arriving illegally in the UK to their home nation or a third country such as Rwanda. 

The last aspect of the bill’s remit is currently subject to legal challenge in the Supreme Court.

Yesterday evening, the Government refused any more concessions. It will now go for royal assent to be enacted this Summer after weeks of “ping pong” between the two houses.