Bibby Stockholm migrant barge ‘to cost more per head than hotels’ despite Home Office pledge to cut bill

The number of asylum seekers that can be housed on the Bibby Stockholm has been reduced to 425, according to a fire safety assessment

Holly Bancroft
Social Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 07 November 2023 18:14 GMT
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Just Stop Oil block coach returning asylum seekers to Bibby Stockholm barge

Housing asylum seekers on the Bibby Stockholm barge will cost more than putting them up in hotels, according to new estimates – despite a government pledge that it would be cheaper.

Around 70 asylum seekers are now living on the barge at Portland port, Dorset, after it was finally given the all clear two months after 39 migrants were moved off the vessel following the discovery of legionella bacteria in the water supply.

The barge was initially supposed to house about 500 people but the Home Office has now reduced this to a maximum of 425, according to fire prevention measures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Nicola David from the NGO One Life to Live has estimated the cost of housing 425 asylum seekers on the barge by looking at publicly available financial information. According to her calculations, a room on the barge would cost an average of £163.63 per room per day. This compared to an average of £157 per room per day in a hotel.

The figures have been recently updated to take into account changes in the costing of the berthing fee.

With only 70 asylum seekers currently on the Bibby Stockholm, the barge is around £836.45 more expensive per night than a hotel, her costings suggest.

Downing Street has repeatedly defended the use of the barge, which has been dubbed a “quasi-floating prison” with “inhumane” living conditions by the refugee charity Care4Calais, claiming is a cheaper alternative to hotels.

Asylum seekers had to be moved off the barge in August after a legionella scare

The Independent revealed in June that an Australian travel firm had been quietly handed a £1.6bn contract covering the barge and other asylum accommodation. Corporate Travel Management (CTM) was put in charge of the two-year deal in February and was awared the contract without competition.

The contract was published under the title “provision of bridging accommodation and travel services” and was for an estimated value of £1,593,535,200 over two years.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has pledged to end the use of 50 asylum hotels by the end of January. The government estimated about £8m is being spent each day on hotels for asylum seekers.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Bibby Stockholm is part of the government’s pledge to reduce the use of expensive hotels and bring forward alternative accommodation options which provide a more cost effective, sustainable and manageable system for the UK taxpayer and local communities.

"The capacity of the Bibby Stockholm remains around 500. The number of people onboard the vessel at any one time is likely to vary due to a number of factors, including individuals exiting the asylum system once a decision has been made."

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