The UK Government announced Friday that legionella bacteria was discovered in the water supply of the residential barge Bibby Stockholm, which currently houses 39 asylum seekers. Due to this potential health risk, the asylum seekers have been removed from the barge.
The UK Home Office’s new accommodation scheme to house migrants on the barge in Portland was launched last Monday. Since then, the number of migrants waiting to complete their formal asylum-seeking process in the UK upon the barge has increased from 15 to 39. The Home Office claimed this accommodation system would offer “better value for the British taxpayer” but has received criticism from human rights organisations.
Although the Home Office previously stated that the barge had passed all health and safety checks, environmental samples from the onboard water system have shown legionella bacteria levels that “require further investigation.” Legionella bacteria can cause legionnaires disease, an uncommon form of pneumonia when a person breathes in air containing legionella bacteria in droplets of water. As a result of this risk, the UKHSA advised the Home Office on Thursday to remove six of the asylum seekers who had arrived on the vessel the previous day. Although no passengers have presented any symptoms of the disease, all asylum seekers on board have been taken off the vessel as a further precaution.
Dorset Council Environmental Health officers conducted further testing regarding the health risk, and the Home Office is waiting for these results, as well as the UKHSA’s advice regarding further action. A spokesperson from the Home Office has ensured that “The health and welfare of individuals on the vessel is our utmost priority.”