Urgent Changes Needed on the Bibby Stockholm

1 September 2023

A fire safety report conducted by safety inspectors examining the Bibby Stockholm found five urgent changes that needed to be made onboard. They cited risks to life in the event of a fire. People seeking asylum had already been moved on to the barge.

The inspectors examined the Bibby Stockholm, concluding that lives could be at risk due to too few fire escapes, inadequate fire drills and issues with air vents. This information, released through an FOI, comes in the same week that it was reported that hundreds of people might still be moved onto the Bibby Stockholm despite an inspection finding issues that may take months to fix. 

The Bibby Stockholm has been used before to provide asylum accommodation. It was used in February 2008 by the Netherlands. A man named Rachid Abdelsalam died onboard. That this floating prison is now being reconsidered for use by the UK, with this fatal history, shows the pursuit of cruelty within our asylum system. 

Across asylum accommodation provision we are seeing a blatant disregard for the lives and safety of people with insecure immigration status, as private profit is favoured over human lives again and again. We have been hearing stories from residents of hotels in Scotland, who have spoken to us of their hunger, stress and illnesses from being kept indefinitely in inadequate accommodation without news from the Home Office. Others have told us of being let down over and over again by the Home Office and Mears, and the impact this has had on their mental and physical health. 

The general secretary of the Fire Brigades Unions has said that the conditions on the Bibby Stockholm demonstrate a ‘reckless approach to fire hazards’. We are seeing this reckless approach to the dignity and lives of people seeking asylum throughout our immigration system, in the hotels, in floating prisons and in severely inadequate asylum support provision. 

The current asylum system is on a loop, with crisis after crisis becoming the new normal. People seeking asylum should not have to face unrelenting hardship to reach sanctuary. Prioritising culture wars and cash over human life and human rights law will never create a functioning asylum system. As Zoe Gardener showed this week, our asylum system is based on lies. Until we tell the truth, our asylum system will always be broken. 

Iona Taylor (Advocacy and Campaigns Lead)

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