REFUGEE charity Care4Calais reported yesterday that it had managed to stop 20 asylum seekers from being forced aboard the Bibby Stockholm ‘deathtrap barge’ anchored off Portland in Dorset .
Care4Calais Chief executive Steve Smith said: ‘None of the asylum seekers we are supporting have gone to the Bibby Stockholm today as legal representatives have had their transfers cancelled.’
Among them were people who are ‘disabled, who have survived torture and modern slavery and who have had traumatic experiences at sea’, he said.
Housing people in a ‘quasi floating prison’ is inhumane, Smith continued, adding: ‘To try and do so with this group of people is unbelievably cruel.’
However, by late yesterday afternoon pictures of around half a dozen people trudging aboard the barge pulling suitcases were broadcast.
The Tories say they plan to increase the numbers aboard up to 500, despite safety warnings from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) that it could become a ‘floating Grenfell’.
Steve Valdez-Symonds of Amnesty International UK said: ‘It seems there’s nothing this government won’t do to make people seeking asylum feel unwelcome and unsafe in this country.
‘Reminiscent of the prison hulks from the Victorian era, the Bibby Stockholm is an utterly shameful way to house people who’ve fled terror, conflict and persecution.
‘Housing people on a floating barge is likely to be retraumatising and there should be major concerns about confining each person to living quarters the typical size of a car parking space.’
An asylum seeker outside a hotel in Bournemouth said nine people were supposed to get on the coach to the Bibby Stockholm initially, but all but one have refused – so only one person would be in the vehicle.
In an open letter to barge owner Bibby Marine, groups including the Refugee Council said it would have ‘detention-like conditions’.
Forty organisations and individuals signed the open letter, including Refugee Action, City of Sanctuary UK, the Institute for Race Relations, Praxis, the Helen Bamber Foundation and Lib Dem peer Baroness Brinton.
The letter described the use of the vessel as ‘entirely inappropriate’ and called on the company to withdraw from its charter agreement.
‘We believe that containing people who have been through traumatising experiences, especially on a floating vessel, is cruel and inhumane,’ the letter said.