Dorset county councillors have attacked the plan to house up to 500 asylum seekers in a barge moored off Portland, with one condemning it as, “a devil’s deal”.


The Conservative-run Dorset council has voted overwhelmingly for the scheme to be halted.


Ostensibly, the project will reduce the expense of accommodating claimants, but evidence shows that only 0.08 of the annual cost would be saved.


Weymouth and Portland are among the most deprived areas in Dorset, with considerable social and health challenges.


And one historian has compared the use of the Bibby Stockholm to the hulks used to confine Victorian prisoners, like those memorably described in “Great Expectations”. Anna McKay, who works at Liverpool University, says that public opinion in Victorian England turned against the use of hulks. And she points out that the prison ship moored off Portland from 1997 to 2005 was controversial politically, deeply unpopular and costly to run.


The charity  has suggested emailing or writing to The Port of Portland, the Bibby company and the Langham Wine estate to protest the scheme. Justin Langham is a director of the Port Authority and owns Langham Vineyard and cafe.


Suggested phrases to use are:


  • Any company that profiteers from inflicting misery by containing asylum-seekers on a barge should take a long, hard look at themselves – are you willing to do that?
  • Water is terrifying for refugees who’ve already made traumatising trips across the Med and the Channel. Please drop your inhumane deal to berth the Bibby Stockholm
  • Imagine if you’d made traumatising crossings of the Med and the Channel already and were sent to live on a boat, surrounded by the sea? Please drop your cruel agreement to berth the Bibby Stockholm
  • Being jammed onto the Bibby Stockholm – with almost no chance to leave the barge or the port – is basically detention. These people have done nothing wrong. Please drop your plan to berth the Bibby Stockholm
  • Please drop your plan to berth the Bibby Stockholm – it’s cruel and inhumane, because water is traumatising for them


Justin Langham, Dower House, Bingham’s Melcombe, Dorchester. DT2 7PZ.