Asylum seeker dies on UK barge housing migrants and refugees

British Interior Minister James Cleverly says the death will be investigated.

An asylum seeker has died on board a UK barge used to house people while their asylum claims are adjudicated.

British Interior Minister James Cleverly told parliament on Tuesday that an asylum seeker died on the Bibby Stockholm barge moored in Portland, Dorset.

“Tragically, there has been death on the Bibby Stockholm barge,” Cleverly said. “At this stage, I’m uncomfortable getting into any more details, but we will, of course, investigate fully.”

The barge has been controversial since it was first put into use, along with old military barracks, to hold asylum seekers. Earlier this year, the barge, which can house about 500 people, had to be temporarily evacuated after the discovery of legionella bacteria in its water supply, which can cause serious illness.

Government officials have said that the barge is not a detention facility and that those held there are able to take short trips to a nearby town.

The Guardian newspaper recently reported that, in practice, doing so is difficult. The outlet quoted a man held on the barge who described poor conditions, abusive behaviour from authorities, and “exactly the feeling of being in a prison”.

“We are treated in such a way that we despair and wish for death” the man is quoted as saying.

Authorities have released few details about the death on the barge. A Dorset Police spokesperson said that the agency received “a report of a sudden death of a resident on the Bibby Stockholm”.

The Refugee Council called for an independent review.

“This is an appalling loss of life but tragically not surprising,” said Enver Solomon, the group’s chief executive. “Nobody who comes to our country seeking asylum should be left without the support they need yet the system has more hostility than compassion built into it.”



Al Jazeera and news agencies

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