Bibby Stockholm barge will remain out of action 'for three weeks'
Migrants will not be moved back on to the Bibby Stockholm barge ‘for at least three weeks’ after Legionella health scare
- Read more: Migrants told – Get on the Bibby Stockholm today or be homeless
The Home Office’s migrant accommodation barge will remain out of action for at least three weeks after the Legionella health scare, it emerged last night.
Sources said the 506-bed Bibby Stockholm will have to remain unoccupied until later this month and possibly into September following the discovery of Legionella bacteria in its water system.
The disclosure came as the Home Office’s handling of the multi-million pound project faced increasing scrutiny.
Ministers have launched an internal inquiry to establish who knew what – and when – amid claims the Home Office was alerted to positive tests results for the bacteria earlier than previously thought.
Cleaning the vessel’s water system will take five days, with repeat tests for Legionella requiring a 15-day period after that, sources said.
Lying empty: The Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge at Portland Port in Dorset
Home Secretary Suella Braverman is being kept closely informed
Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who is on a family holiday in the UK, is being kept closely informed. She joined online meetings about the barge yesterday, with more planned today.
The discovery of Legionella led to the removal of all 39 migrants from the barge at Portland in Dorset on Friday. Dorset Council said Home Office contractors were told about traces of Legionella on Monday last week – the day the first asylum seekers were moved onto the vessel.
A Home Office official was then told about the discovery on Tuesday, a council spokesman said. ‘To be clear, it was not Dorset Council’s responsibility to inform the Home Office – that responsibility sat with CTM and Landry & Kling, the companies contracted by the Home Office to operate the barge,’ he added.
READ MORE: The EU blocks a deal which would allow Channel migrants to be sent back to France
But Health Secretary Steve Barclay yesterday told Sky News: ‘My understanding from colleagues in the Home Office is it [the test result] was notified to Home Office ministers on Thursday and they then took very quick action as a result.’
He said: ‘It may be the council notified the Home Office – that is an issue for those in the Home Office to respond to.’
The barge is part of the Government’s bid to reduce the £6million-a-day cost of placing 50,000 Channel migrants in hotels. Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman confirmed the Home Office was still ‘clarifying’ when officials were made aware of issues with the bacteria, which can lead to Legionnaires’ disease, a dangerous form of pneumonia. The Prime Minister still has confidence in the Home Secretary and the work of the Home Office, he said.
‘I think we will be communicating with all relevant groups to see if there are any lessons that can be learned,’ the spokesman added. ‘We remain confident that we have acted quickly once informed.’
There were further Channel crossings yesterday despite six deaths after a dinghy got into difficulty near Sangatte, northern France, on Saturday.
Some 1,608 migrants reached Britain from Thursday to Saturday last week, Home Office figures show.
So far this year, 16,679 migrants have reached Britain – down 14 per cent from the same point in the year in 2022.
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