Name: Bibby Stockholm
Owner: Bibby Maritime
Length93.44 m (306.6 ft)
Beam27.43 m (90.0 ft)
Draught2.2 m (7.2 ft)
In a move that has sparked heated debate and drawn widespread opposition, the United Kingdom's government has followed through on its plan to house asylum seekers on a barge at Portland Port in Dorset. The initiative, touted as a cost-effective alternative to accommodating asylum seekers in hotels, has come under intense scrutiny and faced significant delays.
In April 2023, the UK Government unveiled its intention to utilize a barge as a housing solution for asylum seekers, citing its potential to offer better value for taxpayers compared to the substantial daily expenses associated with housing asylum seekers in hotels. With a staggering £5.6 million daily cost for hotel accommodations, officials argued that the barge strategy could alleviate some of the financial burden.
However, recent revelations have cast doubts on the projected cost savings. A report by The Guardian in July 2023 has questioned the actual effectiveness of this approach, suggesting that the anticipated savings may be minimal, at best.
The plan entailed housing up to 506 asylum seekers at Portland Port for a minimum of 18 months. These individuals are already in the process of having their asylum claims evaluated by the government. The barge itself was designed to incorporate essential facilities, including healthcare provisions, catering services, and around-the-clock security.
Despite the government's assertions, the asylum seeker barge plan has been met with significant resistance. Humanitarian organizations have strongly criticized the move, while local authorities and the area's Member of Parliament have voiced opposition. Dorset Council even contemplated legal action in a bid to prevent the barge's arrival, underscoring the intense divisions surrounding the controversial decision.
The barge's journey has been plagued by delays, exacerbating the already contentious situation. After weeks of waiting, the vessel finally departed dry dock in Falmouth on the morning of July 17, 2023, making its way to Portland Port later that evening. The delay, as reported by The Financial Times, was attributed to severe decay in the steel hull, necessitating the replacement of entire sections due to safety concerns.
As the barge docks at Portland Port, the tension between government authorities and critics remains palpable. The contentious arrival has brought the complex issues of asylum seekers, public expenditure, and government decision-making to the forefront of public discourse, highlighting the ongoing challenges of finding humane and cost-effective solutions for housing vulnerable populations.