Coach driver accused of ‘risking lives’ at Bibby Stockholm protest

Law and Justice Policy & Politics

Police have made three arrests following protests at the port gates to try and stop a coach carrying migrants to the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, Dorset.

Just Stop Oil has accused the coach driver of “risking killing” activists by “ramming” his way past them as they tried to block the road.

Dorset police said two people were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage to the coach and a third person for suspicion of criminal damage to a police vehicle.

Around 50 activists and local people protested at the gates of the port against the forced return of the men to the barge “but also to welcome them back into their community”, reports the Guardian.

Just Stop Oil posted to social media: “We are saddened to report that we were unable to halt transportation of refugees to the prison [barge] — the driver rammed through the block, risking killing those in front.”

In a statement the Home Office condemned “the disruption caused in Portland by a small group of people” calling it “totally unacceptable.”

The Home Office said it is “liaising closely with the police as they continue their investigations and to ensure appropriate security arrangements are in place.”

The Bibby Stockholm barge was evacuated two months ago – only days after the first refugees were placed on board – after legionella bacteria was found in its water supply. Thirty-nine asylum seekers were removed from the vessel and returned to hotels.

Last month, LBC reported the empty barge was costing taxpayers £24,500 per day in hire and port fees – adding up to “£560,000 over four weeks”.

The government said that all necessary health, fire and safety have been carried out and that the barge is now safe. More asylum seekers are expected to be boarded in the coming days.

The government has repeatedly insisting using such facilities to house refugees is a more affordable option than paying for hotels which are costing taxpayers around £8 million per day. It also said barges will be better for communities because there is healthcare and catering on board.

There are currently around 51,000 destitute migrants being housed in hotels.

At full capacity the Bibby Stockholm would be able to house around 500 asylum seekers. ITV News reports that as of today (October 20), “there are still only around a dozen or so” on board.

Conditions on the Bibby Stockholm – which has had extra beds added to maximise space – have been widely criticised by campaigners who call its use “inhumane” and have likened it to a prison.

Candy Udwin, of Stand Up To Racism Dorset, has spoken to people who had been staying on the Bibby Stockholm in August.

“They hate it, they say it feels like a prison, some hate being on the sea, they find it very difficult to leave and they are completely separated from the community,” Udwiu said:

Another man who was held on the barge for five days in August, before being disembarked with the others, told Channel 4 News in September that staying longer on board could cause “depression”, adding: “it is not liveable at all.”

Asked what her message to the community hosting the barge would be, the mayor of Portland Carralyn Parkes, said: “My message to them would be to have cool heads and kind hearts, to welcome other human beings and to recognise the humanity in all of us.”

Since August more than 11,000 people have crossed the channel on small boats. One of the prime minister’s five promises to the electorate is to “stop the boats”.

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