After germs were found, people seeking asylum were taken off a controversial UK barge. A controversial barge in southern England has been emptied of asylum-seekers following the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water – days after experts warned of the danger of infection.
A spokesperson for the UK Home Office said in a statement released on Friday that 39 asylum-seekers disembarked the Bibby Stockholm barge just days after they were first lodged on it.
Legionella, commonly found in water, can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a severe respiratory infection. The spokesperson stated that no one on board the barge displayed symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease and that the asylum-seekers were receiving the necessary guidance and support.
“The samples taken pertain only to the vessel’s water system and therefore pose no direct risk to the greater Portland community, nor do they pertain to the freshwater entering the ship,” the statement said, adding that Legionnaires’ disease does not spread from person to person.
The discovery of the bacteria coincides with the conclusion of what the British government had dubbed “Small Boats Week” – a campaign intended to demonstrate the steps it had taken to reduce the number of asylum-seekers entering the country via small boats crossing the English Channel.
The government announced in April its intention to house approximately 500 single adult males on the Bibby Stockholm as a deterrent for those seeking asylum in the United Kingdom. The barge’s original capacity was 222 persons, but it was retrofitted to accommodate more.
Tuesday, the first asylum seekers boarded the barge in Portland, Dorset, despite public health experts’ warnings about the potential risk of infection in appalling living conditions, as deemed by activists.
The Fire Brigades Union of the United Kingdom has also referred to the vessel as a “death trap” and an “accident waiting to happen.”The detection of Legionella in the barge’s water prompted swift action from human rights activists.
“The presence of life-threatening bacteria aboard the Bibby Stockholm is just the latest startling revelation to emerge in recent weeks. Director of survivor empowerment at Freedom from Torture, that the government’s punitive policies and deliberate neglect of the asylum system are cruel and hazardous.
The government of the United Kingdom has made stemming the flow of asylum-seekers into the country a top priority, as the number of migrants crossing the English Channel in small vessels last year reached a record 46,000.
Seven hundred fifty-five individuals made the problematic transit of the English Channel on Thursday, a record daily high.