'I lived on the Bibby Stockholm and it's no place for asylum seekers'

Ruairi Kelly said the barge is too 'cramped' and 'claustraphobic' to house asylum seekers 'indefinitely'.

‘I lived on the Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset and it’s no place for asylum seekers’ says Glasgow councillor Ruairi Kelly

A man who lived on the Bibby Stockholm has said it is a “cramped” and “claustrophobic” barge that is not a suitable place to house asylum seekers.

Ruairi Kelly claimed the vessel could “exacerbate” any physical and mental health problems of those onboard.

The ship will hold up to 500 people after capacity was increased through the installation of bunk beds.

Kelly, an SNP councillor in Glasgow, had lived on the boat when it was docked in Lerwick in Shetland in 2013 and 2014 during the construction of the Shetland Gas Plant.

It was used to house workers while the facility was built.

Now moored in Dorset, it is being used to house asylum seekers. It comes as the UK Government attempts to slow down the number of migrants crossing the English Channel.

Those seeking asylum are currently being housed in hotels, which costs the taxpayer around £6m a day. The UK Government said the move to place people in the barge will help lower costs.

The Glasgow SNP councillor said while the barge was “perfectly adequate” for workers on 14-hour shifts, it should not be used for longer-term stays.

The Bibby Stockholm in Dorset will house up to 500 asylum seekers.Getty Images

“They’re talking about having two people to a room, 500 on the barge, with really not very many places to go,” he told STV News.

“They say these people can get buses into town but they can’t work.

“They’ve got no money really to be doing anything to do to town so you’ll probably find a lot of people going stir crazy in the place, especially if you’re coming from a traumatic situation.

“Those cramped conditions will really exacerbate the physical and mental health problems people already have.

“It’s quite claustrophobic.”

The UK Government has disagreed with that characterisation, with justice secretary Alex Chalk saying the barge is “perfectly decent”, adding that it “complies with the fire safety checks and goodness knows what.”

Kelly said when he was on the vessel he would only spend around eight or nine hours there before heading back off for work.

“I’d be eating, sleeping and then getting back to work because we worked 21 days on and about a week off,” he said.

“You weren’t on it for an extended period of time so in that setting it’s fine but I knew I was going home and I had a decent wage in my pocket.

“But now it is being used to house people essentially indefinitely while they get through backlogs of asylum claims I think it’s just really asking for trouble.”

Hundreds of people crossed the English Channel last weekend.Getty Images

He added: “We had an incident in Glasgow in the Park Inn Hotel where someone who was seeking asylum, where a number of people were staying, where one of the asylum seekers attacked other people and it seemed that was just down to stress and isolation exacerbating mental health problems.

“If that’s an issue in a hotel in the centre of a city where you can do much more than you could on a barge I would be concerned for the wellbeing and safety of the individuals exposed to that stress and those behaviours and their ability to deal with that.”

Kelly was referencing the 2020 mass stabbing at the Park Inn Hotel in Glasgow where Badreddin Abadlla Adam was shot dead by police after stabbing six people.

The hotel housed dozens of asylum seekers during the Covid pandemic.

The Home Office has been approached for comment.

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