UK Asylum-Seeking Bargees Disembarked Due To Potentially Deadly Bugs In Pipes.

Photo credit: Finnbarr Webster. Residents have been evacuated from the Bibby Stockholm residential barge due to bacteria in the water supply.
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The United Kingdom has evacuated refugees and migrants from a residential barge floating in Portland harbour less than a week after they moved in, after potentially deadly Legionella bacteria was found in the water supply, a government spokesperson said this week.

The UK had begun moving some people on to the large Bibby Stockholm barge on its southern coast at the beginning of the week as part of its high-profile strategy to deter asylum seekers from arriving in the country.

The policy had divided opinion, with ministers saying they wanted to offer basic and not luxurious accommodation to help save costs, while human rights campaigners said the offer was inhumane.

“Environmental samples from the water system on the Bibby Stockholm [barge] have shown levels of legionella bacteria which require further investigation,” a spokesperson at the Home Office, or interior ministry, said.

The testing for Legionella bacteria was done before asylum seekers went aboard, but the results – showing levels of Legionella bacteria that required further investigation – only came back this week, according to Home Office sources.

The bacteria are believed to have come from pipes on the barge in Portland, near Weymouth.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) advised on Thursday evening that the six asylum seekers who arrived on the barge on Thursday should be removed, but the Home Office decided to take all 39 off as a precaution.

Home Office officials are awaiting the results of follow-up tests on the water system by Dorset Council environmental officers.

The large, grey three-story barge can house about 500 people in more than 200 bedrooms, and more people had been expected to move in over the coming weeks.

The bacteria discovered in the water supply of the barge can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a lung infection that the British health service describes as uncommon but “very serious”.

The government said no individuals on board had presented with symptoms of the disease, and that it was working closely with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and following its advice in line with public health processes.

The news came at the end of a week during which the government had been making announcements on how it was trying to reduce the number of asylum seekers in an attempt to win support from voters before a general election expected next year.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has made cracking down on irregular migration a priority, is also trying to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, although that plan has run into legal difficulties.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters,
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