Half a million already spent on empty refugee prison barge the Bibby Stockholm

Bibby Stockholm is now at Portland Port
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England’s prison barge for refugees, the Bibby Stockholm, has sat empty since it was evacuated in early August. Despite this, one organisation has calculated that the barge continues running up a bill on the public purse. And that figure is already in the hundreds of thousands.

£24,500 a day

LBC reported on 8 September that the Bibby Stockholm cost £24,500 a day to sit empty and unused in its current location at Portand, Dorset. This figure is based on calculations by migrant solidarity group Reclaim the Sea, which provided the figures in its July report The Bibby Stockholm – at what cost?.

The report explained that chartering and berthing the barge cost £20,000 and £4500 per day respectively. These are fixed costs regardless of whether anyone is on board the vessel.

The government briefly caged 39 refugees on the barge before evacuating them on 11 August. Tests had revealed the presence of legionella in the water system. Nearly four weeks later, the Bibby Stockholm remains unused in Portland’s port.

Using Reclaim the Sea’s figures, those four weeks have run up a bill of £560,000. LBC said this money would be enough to employ “20 asylum decision makers” who could work through 80 claims a month. Of course, not all of these theoretical claims would meet positive ends for the refugees.

Money to private profiteers

Plenty of people were outraged at the wasted money, with one dismissing the Bibby Stockholm as an example of “performative cruelty”:

Read on...

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Others highlighted the potential profiteering made off the back of the unused barge:

Indeed, the £20,000 a day chartering cost goes directly to the barge’s owner, Bibby Marine. The Mirror reported in July that the Langham family, which owns Bibby Marine, has links to prime minister Rishi Sunak and his deputy Oliver Dowden.

Meanwhile, others pointed out how this money could have helped another government-wrecked sector of society:

The actual cost of fixing the concrete problem in schools isn’t yet known. The Financial Times estimated on 7 September that “rebuilding a single average-sized 1950s block at each of the [potentially affected] 572 schools would total about £3.1bn”.

Bibby Stockholm: salt in an open wound

The estimated £560,000 comes on top of the reported £1.6bn two-year contract given to Corporate Travel Management to run the ship. This cost presumably also continues to run up a bill while the Bibby Stockholm sits empty.

It is a good thing that nobody is on the ship, of course. But what the government has revealed by spending half a million or more in a month on an empty ship is how committed it is to racism and border violence. The Bibby Stockholm is reportedly undergoing work to enable the government to force refugees back onto the barge very soon. As such, the wasted half a million is rubbing salt into an open wound.

Featured image via Ashley Smith/Wikimedia Commons, resized to 1910×1000 under licence CC BY-SA 4.0

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