Overcrowding Onboard the Bibby Stockholm

8 February 2024

The move towards the use of former military barracks, airforce bases, and prison-like barges as asylum accommodation has been condemned widely across the UK by third sector organisations, local communities, and local councils alike.

Despite this, however, far from eradicating the use of institutionalised accommodation, the Home Office has moved towards ‘hotel maximisation’, a programme of room-sharing. This policy has created endless safeguarding and well-being issues. Children have been forced to share rooms with unrelated adults. Fears have been raised for LGBTQIA+ community members, some of whom have opted for homelessness instead of the fear of sharing rooms with strangers.

This all arises in a system that entrusts subcontracted private companies with the livelihoods of people seeking safety. In a model that prioritises profit over people, how can we ever trust that everyone in the asylum system will be treated with care and compassion? 

On 12th December 2023, Leonard Farruku was found dead on the Bibby Stockholm in a suspected suicide. He was one of roughly 300 people accommodated onboard the Bibby Stockholm, forced to room share. Rishi Sunak had brushed off reports of a previously reported attempted suicide on the Bibby Stockholm stating: “the plan is working”. Leonard was described as a “kind and hard-working man who dreamed of becoming a musician”.  

The UK’s asylum system continues to diminish and infringe upon the human rights of people seeking safety who have attempted to escape human rights violations abroad. Forcing people seeking safety into overcrowded, under-resourced and poor-quality institutionalised housing is a clear dereliction of the duty of care of the Home Office. Compassionate approaches must be found before there are further tragedies in institutionalised accommodation.  

Adam Paterson (Advocacy and Campaigns Officer)

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