Asylum seekers due to stay on the Bibby Stockholm barge have had their transfers blocked in a last gasp move from lawyers, who have claimed that some of them had a “severe fear of water”.
In legal challenges put forward by charity Care4Calais, lawyers argued that the Home Office failed to adequately screen 20 migrants to find out if the vessel was suitable to hold them.
As a result all 20 of the transfers were “cancelled”, meanwhile the charity’s CEO Steve Smith has disclosed that some of the asylum seekers didn’t take up their places on the barge due to “mental health concerns”, some of which came about after being “traumatised by seeing their friends drown at sea”.
In a sharp–tongued retort to the charity’s claim that some of the men due to get on the Bibby Stockholm are scared of the water, Conservative Party chairman Lee Anderson told Express.co.uk: “If they don’t like barges then they should f*** off back to France.”
The MP for Ashfield said this morning that he “doesn’t believe” they are scared of water because they have already crossed one of the “busiest shipping lanes in the world”, adding: “No one with an ounce of sense would.”
He continued: “These people come across the Channel in small boats, if they don’t like the conditions they are housed in here then they should go back to France or better not come at all in the first place.”
Yesterday saw 15 migrants in total transferred to the Bibby Stockholm from hotels in Oxford, Bristol, Torbay and Bournemouth, as the Government desperately tries to dampen the spiralling cost of housing asylum seekers. As it stands the hotel bill stands at £6million-a-day.
According to MailOnline sources, officials are prepared to withdraw free, publicly-funded accommodation for asylum seekers that give up their place on the barge, which is currently situated just off the Dorset coast.
Campaigners held banners condemning the barge policy, whilst others held signs saying: “Refugees welcome. Stop the far right”.
The barge has a capacity of 500 and is the size of a football pitch. Asylum seekers onboard will be able to play cricket, cycle, tend allotments and go on guided walks of the Dorset countryside.
The floating facility also has a 24-hour canteen, a gym, and 222 ensuite bedrooms.
Residents on the boat will also get to take part in “cultural events” and get free buses and taxis to visit local towns.
Hourly buses from 7am to 11pm will allow the men to travel to Weymouth, a nearby seaside resort with a beach and marina.
However if anyone ever misses the last bus at 11pm, they can call a special number for a free taxi.
Besides complimentary meals, accommodation and transport, each migrant is granted £9.58 per week as pocket money.
Care4Calais boss Mr Smith told the Telegraph that the ordeal some of the men had been through should rule them out from being house on the barge.
He said: “These 20 range from survivors of torture to people who have been beaten, shot at, some arrested, some traumatised by seeing their friends drown at sea and who therefore have a severe fear of water.
“There are therefore mental health concerns and a very worried and very traumatised community. Details of those individuals have been passed to lawyers who have raised challenges about the suitability screening.”
He added: “There appears to have been no suitability screening. I understand that on that basis some removals to the barge have ceased.”
In a separate statement he said: “To house any human being in a ‘quasi floating prison’ like the Bibby Stockholm is inhumane.
“To try and do so with this group of people is unbelievably cruel. Even just receiving the notices is causing them a great deal of anxiety.”
New figures have shown the number of migrants living in hotels has hit 50,000, up 25 per cent from 40,000 in December, when the PM vowed to end the accommodation of asylum seekers in hotels.