An asylum seeker on board the Bibby Stockholm barge has died.
Police said officers received reports of a “sudden death” of someone living on the giant vessel, in Portland, Dorset, early on Tuesday morning.
The first asylum seekers were brought back to the barge in October, some two months after it was evacuated following the discovery of Legionella – the bacteria which can cause the potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease – in the water supply.
A Dorset Police spokesman said: “At 6.22am on Tuesday December 12 2023, Dorset Police received a report of a sudden death of a resident on the Bibby Stockholm.
“Officers are conducting inquiries into the circumstances of the incident.
“The coroner’s office has been notified of the death.”
Further details of the incident are yet to be confirmed.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We are aware of reporting of an incident involving an asylum seeker on the Bibby Stockholm.
“This is an ongoing police investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
The news prompted criticism from campaigners who hit out at the conditions on the barge and called for an end to the use of such facilities as asylum accommodation.
Steve Smith, the chief executive of Care4Calais, said: “Our thoughts are with the person who has lost their life, their family and their friends. They are also with all those stuck on board the Bibby Stockholm who will be experiencing a deep feeling of grief and worry today.
“The UK Government must take responsibility for this human tragedy. They have wilfully ignored the trauma they are inflicting on people who are sent to the Bibby Stockholm, and the hundreds being accommodated in former military barracks.
“They are being separated from the rest of society and we have witnessed a serious deterioration of people’s mental health. We have regularly been reporting suicidal intentions amongst residents and no action is taken.
“This can no longer continue. Asylum seekers are human beings, many of whom have experienced the worst traumas imaginable through war, torture and persecution.
“It’s time our political leaders treated them as human beings, listened to the trauma they have experienced and offered them sanctuary. The Government’s proxy war against refugees is costing lives.”
Former home secretary Suella Braverman previously insisted the Bibby barge was safe amid threats of legal action from firefighters and protests about the suitability of the plan.
Ann Salter, from charity Freedom from Torture, said: “This latest tragedy is yet another reminder that the Government’s punitive anti-refugee policies are not only cruel but they cost lives.
“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 enroute 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.
“Those seeking protection need to be housed in our communities, where they can properly access the support they need to recover and rebuild their lives.”
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