Mounting Pressure on Home Office Regarding Asylum Seekers’ Removal from Barge Amid Legionella Concerns

Mounting Pressure on Home Office Regarding Asylum Seekers’ Removal from Barge Amid Legionella Concerns

The Home Office is under increasing pressure to provide answers concerning the removal of asylum seekers from the Bibby Stockholm barge.

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This comes following the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water supply of the barge.

Conservative backbenchers are criticizing the department’s perceived “incompetence” after 39 individuals who had boarded the vessel were relocated to different accommodations on Friday.

Questions Surrounding Bacterial Risk

Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock has reached out to his counterpart, questioning whether the Home Office was aware of the risk posed by the bacteria before transferring migrants onto the barge.

Kinnock’s concerns have spurred inquiries about the department’s awareness of the bacterial presence.

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Precautionary Measures and Investigation

In response, the Home Office stated that all 39 individuals on board were disembarked as a precautionary measure after water system samples indicated elevated levels of Legionella, necessitating further investigation.

It is noteworthy that no migrants have reported illness or contracted Legionnaires’ disease, and they are receiving appropriate advice and support.

Timeline of Events and Inadequate Action

The timeline of events reveals that Dorset Council informed department officials about initial findings of Legionella on Wednesday evening.

Despite this information, an additional six migrants were still transferred to the barge on Thursday.

The UK Health Security Agency informed ministers about the presence of Legionella in the water system on Thursday and recommended the removal of the six newly arrived migrants.

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Barge Usage and Government’s Intention

The Bibby Stockholm barge, with a capacity exceeding 500, is intended to help reduce the £6 million daily expenditure on hotel bills for asylum seekers awaiting application outcomes.

However, former Brexit secretary David Davis dismissed the barge as a solution to the backlog even without the bacterial issue, highlighting concerns about the Home Office’s competence and its inability to address the asylum situation effectively.

Political Criticisms and Ministerial Accountability

Conservative MPs have criticized the evacuation of migrants as an embarrassment and a reflection of incompetence within the Home Office.

The evacuation coincided with the government’s planned announcements on immigration strategy, undermining its efforts.

Shadow minister Stephen Kinnock has called on immigration minister Robert Jenrick to address questions surrounding the evacuation and expressed profound disappointment in the government’s handling of the asylum crisis.

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Bacterial Risks and Oversight

Legionella bacteria, if inhaled, can lead to Legionnaires’ disease, a severe type of pneumonia.

It can proliferate in man-made water systems, particularly in plumbing that has remained unused for extended periods.

Public health expert Professor Paul Hunter highlighted the failure to address the risk of Legionella before moving people onto the barge.

He emphasized that exposure could occur when taking showers, releasing a mist containing the bacteria.

Home Office Response and Collaborative Efforts

The Home Office asserted that the health and well-being of asylum seekers are top priorities, and that they are closely collaborating with Dorset Council’s Environmental Health team, the UK Health Security Agency, and Dorset NHS.

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The department maintains that they are adhering to protocols and advice provided by these entities.

In summary, the Home Office is facing growing pressure and criticism for its handling of the situation involving the Bibby Stockholm barge and the presence of Legionella bacteria in the water supply.

Concerns over the risk to asylum seekers, the department’s competence, and ministerial accountability have taken center stage in the ongoing debate.

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