CNN in London —
Following the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water, a controversial barge in southern England led to the removal of asylum-seekers, following warnings from experts.
The UK Home Office released a statement on Friday, stating that 29 asylum-seekers had been evacuated from the Bibby Stockholm barge shortly after being taken in for the first time.
Legionnaires’ disease, a severe lung infection, can be caused by the presence of waterborne bacteria, Legionella bacteria. The spokesperson confirmed that the asylum-seekers were receiving appropriate guidance and assistance.
The statement stated that the samples taken are exclusively related to the water system on the vessel, and therefore there is no direct indication of a risk for the Portland community. Furthermore, the statement confirmed that Legionnaires’ disease does not spread through contact with fresh water.
The detection of the bacteria coincides with the conclusion of “Small Boats Week” by the UK government, which aimed to showcase the measures taken to decrease the number of asylum-seekers crossing the English Channel.
The government’s plan to keep around 500 single adult men on the Bibby Stockholm was announced in April, with the aim of deterring people from seeking asylum in the UK. The barge was originally planned to hold 222 individuals, but was recently upgraded to accommodate more.
The barge in Portland, on the Dorset coast, was emptied of its first asylum seekers on Tuesday, despite public health experts’ concerns about the potential for infection from living conditions that campaigners have described as inhumane.
The Fire Brigades Union in the UK has referred to the barge as a “death trap” and an “accident waiting to happen.”
After the barge’s departure on July 18, 2023, rival protesters in Portland, Dorset, argued.
The water found in the barge’s sewage was quickly detected by human rights campaign groups.
Kolbassia Haoussou, director of survivor empowerment at Freedom from Torture, told CNN that the presence of life-threatening bacteria onboard the Bibby Stockholm is a shocking revelation and highlights the Government’s cruel and dangerous approach to asylum reform.
The UK government has prioritized the prevention of asylum-seeking, as evidenced by the record-breaking number of migrants arriving on small boats across the English Channel last year.
The dangerous journey made by 755 people on Thursday resulted in a daily record high number of crossings across the Channel.