By Isabel Ringrose
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‘It was worse than prison,’ say refugees forced on to Dorset barge

Join the ‘scrap the prison barge’ protest on Saturday in Portland
Issue 2872
anti-racist activists confront the far right holding refugees welcome placards and banners

Stand Up To Racism supporters confronting the far right in Portland last Saturday

Refugees who were forced to live on the Bibby Stockholm in Portland, Dorset, have said the barge had appalling conditions. And their health and lives were threatened when the authorities ignored evidence of a deadly legionella outbreak.

Despite 39 refugees being removed from the prison barge because bacteria was found in the water, the Home Office is forcing the refugees back on board.

“We were told we have to return and go back there, otherwise the Home Office will cut all the facilities that we’re entitled to, and we’d become homeless. It makes me feel depressed and confused,” one refugee told ITV news.

“It’s really traumatising,” he said, adding there was “a lot of psychological pressure on us” to board. He said the treatment reminded him of trauma experienced in his home country.

Test results came back to confirm the presence of legionella bacteria on 7 August—the day the first 15 refugees were moved onto the barge.

They weren’t evacuated until four days later, or told about the deadly water until hours after the news had broken in the press.

“Bibby Stockholm was worse than a prison,” another refugee said. “We took showers at 5pm and drank from the water until 7pm until we were evacuated.

“We feel like we’re mice in a laboratory that they’re doing different types of tests on.”

New samples from the water on the Bibby Stockholm taken on 15 August showed the most deadly form of legionella bacteria was on board.

“The Bibby Stockholm cannot accommodate 500 people,” the refugee said.

“My concern is if something happened, a fire or anything like that, people would die by jumping over each other because the doors are small. I am scared to go back.”

Refugees on the barge have already sent a three-page letter to home secretary Suella Braverman outlining how conditions were so bad that one was driven to attempt suicide.

But the Tories are insisting that the Bibby Stockholm is safe, despite major safety concerns from the Fire Brigades Union.

They are desperate to store 500 refugees on it despite its previous capacity of 222.

Meanwhile activists in Portland stood off against far right bigots on Saturday last week.

Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) member Candy reported, “There were 60 of us, 12 from Patriotic Alternative, and nobody local joined the fascists.

“We stayed for two and half hours in the heat chanting, dancing and with speeches.”

SUTR has also called a unity demonstration backed by South West TUC union federation to “Scrap the Prison Barge” on Saturday in Portland.

  • Unity demonstration, this Saturday, 16 Sept, assemble 12 noon, Gateway Pillars, Victoria Square, Portland

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