Home Office shelves plans to acquire more asylum seeker accommodation barges after Bibby Stockholm setbacks

Wednesday 17 January 2024

The Home Office says it has shelved plans to procure more barges to hold asylum seekers as the Bibby Stockholm has been beset by problems, delays and disputes.

Ministers last year touted accommodation vessels as a way of cutting the cost of housing migrants in hotels, which has hit £8 million a day.

But it is understood that efforts to secure new barges have been abandoned amid struggles to find ports willing to take them.

It comes as the Bibby Stockholm, the only accommodation barge commissioned so far by ministers, has faced a series of setbacks.

An Albanian asylum seeker died while living on board the barge moored off the coast of Portland in Dorset in December and is thought to have taken his own life.

More than £22 million of taxpayers’ money is being spent on the Bibby Stockholm, while conditions on board have been criticised by campaigners.

It is understood that efforts to secure new barges have been abandoned amid struggles to find ports willing to take them.

The discovery of dangerous bacteria led to its evacuation last summer just days after the arrival of the first asylum seekers, and it remained vacant for two months.

More than £22 million of taxpayers’ money is being spent on the giant barge, while conditions on board have been criticised by campaigners.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We continue to look at a range of alternative accommodation sites to house asylum seekers, including vessels which have been used safely and successfully by Scottish and Dutch Governments, and former military sites.”

However, it is has been reported that the government will no longer be a priority to secure further barges.

It comes after five people died while trying to make the journey from France on Sunday, a day after the first crossings of the year took place.

Some 263 migrants have arrived in the UK so far in 2024, according to Home Office figures.

The number of migrants crossing the Channel has fallen year-on-year for the first time since current records began in 2018, with the total arrivals in 2023 down more than a third on 2022.

The provisional annual total for the year, 29,437, is 36% lower than the record 45,774 crossings for the whole of 2022. But it is still the second highest annual total on record, above the figure for 2021 (28,526).

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