James Cleverly promises investigation after asylum seeker dies on Bibby Stockholm barge

James Cleverly promises investigation after asylum seeker dies on Bibby Stockholm barge

The Home Secretary has promised an investigation into the death of an asylum seeker on board the the Bibby Stockholm barge on Tuesday.

Ahead of a debate on the Rwanda Bill, James Cleverly told the House of Commons: "Tragically, there has been a death on the Bibby Stockholm barge. I’m sure that the thoughts of the whole House, like mine, are with those affected.

"The House will understand that at this stage I am uncomfortable getting into any more details. But we will of course investigate fully."

Ambulances and police cars were reported outside the vessel docked in Portland, Dorset on Tuesday morning.

Dorset Police confirmed officers were investigating the circumstances of the death.

Details of the incident, including the person's age and nationality, are yet to be confirmed.

Steve Smith, CEO of the refugee charity Care4Calais, said those on board will "be experiencing a deep feeling of grief and worry".

The body being removed from the ship (Getty Images)
The body being removed from the ship (Getty Images)

He added: "Our thoughts are with the person who has lost their life, their family and their friends.

"The UK government must take responsibility for this human tragedy."

A Home Office spokesman confirmed they were aware of reports of an incident involving an asylum seeker on board.

The Government is using the barge to house up to 500 people while they have their applications to remain in Britain assessed.

It was one of a number of measure put in place to minimise the Home Office's reliance on hotels to house people.

The first group of 15 asylum seekers boarded the vessel on August 7, but were evacuated just days later following the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water supply.

Migrants were brought back to the giant vessel in October, some two months later.

Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman previously insisted the Bibby Stockholm was safe amid threats of legal action from firefighters and protests about the suitability of the plan.

Campaigning charity Freedom from Torture said it was "devastated" to hear of the death as it called for an end to the use of barges and barracks as asylum accommodation.

Ann Salter from the charity said: "From the survivors I work with every day, I know that the cramped and dangerous conditions on the Bibby can be profoundly retraumatising for those who've survived torture and persecution, in addition to traumatic experiences they've suffered en route to the UK.

"Until this Government stops forcing refugees into unsafe and undignified accommodation, we will continue to see horrific stories of deaths, suicide attempts, serious health issues and unnecessary suffering.

"It's time this Government ends the use of barges and barracks as asylum accommodation once and for all."

Dorset Police said it a statement: "At 6.22am on Tuesday 12 December 2023, Dorset Police received a report of a sudden death of a resident on the Bibby Stockholm. Officers are conducting enquiries into the circumstances of the incident.

"The coroner’s office has been notified of the death."