A group of thirty-nine asylum seekers who were temporarily housed on the Home Office’s Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset have detailed the dire conditions onboard, with one individual attempting suicide. In a three-page letter addressed to Home Secretary Suella Braverman, the asylum seekers expressed their fear and despair while urging her assistance in their pursuit of safety and freedom in the UK.
Describing the barge as “unsafe, frightening, and isolated,” they voiced their concerns about obeying Home Office instructions despite the harsh conditions. They referred to the vessel as “a place of exile,” highlighting the cramped quarters and overall distressing environment. Some individuals who stayed on the barge are now too traumatized to return.
The letter also mentioned cases of illness among the asylum seekers, including a tragic suicide attempt that was fortunately prevented. They expressed concern that such incidents may recur due to the ongoing difficulties they face.
Additionally, the asylum seekers felt they were the last to be informed about the presence of legionella bacteria on the barge, which the Home Office disclosed on August 11. Their brief stay on the vessel had taken a toll on their mental health, leading to increased feelings of isolation and loneliness.
The letter concluded with a heartfelt plea to prioritize their situation, emphasizing their exhaustion and lack of strength to endure further challenges. One Iranian asylum seeker vowed never to return to the barge and described the traumatizing experience.
The Home Office responded by stating that they are closely following advice from various health agencies and conducting further tests to ensure the safety of the water system before re-embarking asylum seekers. The safety of those onboard remains their primary concern.