The government claims that the Bibby Stockholm is a cheaper way of housing asylum seekers than placing them in hotels. However, a recent report by Corporate Watch, an independent research group, shows that the costs are considerable.
“A Home Office response to Freedom of Information requests submitted by Corporate Watch reveals some of the staggering costs associated with the UK government’s scandal-ridden attempts to house vulnerable asylum seekers aboard a ‘floating prison’ off the Dorset coast. It details just under £3.15m in funding either earmarked for – or already paid out to – local authorities in relation to the Bibby Stockholm plans for the next year. These include:
· £1,963 per bed space (of which there are 500) paid out pro-rata over the financial year 2023/2024 to Dorset NHS for the delivery of healthcare services on the barge via local providers. At this point in time, this likely amounts to around £500,000.
· £ 3,500 to Dorset Council, and Dorset police to reduce impact on local services. This would represent £1,750,000 if the vessel were at its full capacity of 500 people.
· A one-off payment of £380,000 to the council for voluntary sector support, and extra funding to the tune of £520,000 for Dorset Police.
· ‘Mutual aid’ for Dorset Police – i.e., the provision of policing assistance from one force to another, suggesting that officers may well find themselves diverted from duties in surrounding counties once the plans are resumed.
This is in addition to £22m that has already been paid out to cover the financial burden of leasing the barge – rounding out to nearly £300,000 per week, of which £2.2m has already gone on a period in which the vessel has sat empty after migrants were evacuated due to a legionella scare earlier in August.
We also requested precise information on the cost of security, towing, chartering, berthing and utilities, which the department declined to provide on the basis this is “intended for future publication.”
The high personal costs to refugees are harder to quantify. Several have described the barge as “a prison”. An asylum seeker currently living in an Essex hotel attempted suicide after discovering that he was to be re-housed on the Bibby Stockholm.