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”:
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It is a national scandal and a staggering misuse of public funds. Suella is cavalierly growing the national debt to headline grab, whilst ignoring the solutions that actually would work.
— JulieTaylor (@JulieT050115) September 8, 2023
Performative cruelty for the racist knuckle draggers
— Paul (@Paul68958640) September 8, 2023
I guess that we can now put #bibbystockholm up there with the #NightingaleHospitals
Pure window dressing – at great expense – just to fool the public. Like the @ukhomeoffice and @RishiSunak 's incompetent @Conservatives 'not fit for purpose'.@beverleyturner @toryboypierce
— Tom O'Brien (@obritom) September 8, 2023
According to Sunak, Braverman, Shapps, Hands, Hunt and 30p Lee this represents value for money.
These people are responsible for our economy.
No wonder it's fucked.#r4today #bbcbreakfast #gmb #kayburley https://t.co/WXKDdfKFFC
— Land of Tope & Dory 🐀 (@lookeyhere4) September 8, 2023
Others highlighted the potential profiteering made off the back of the unused barge:
In nothing at all new Braverman & Jenrick are wasting a bucket load more money on their anti migrant hobby projects.
Half a Million more to private profiteers. That could have been spent on proper housing for the scores they’re making homeless. https://t.co/j0FjbiiIUR
— Lou Calvey (@LouCalvey) September 8, 2023
All money going into a Tory's mates pockets. https://t.co/CdDrnfUlZQ
— Owen Hollifield (@HollifieldOwen) September 8, 2023
That price is artificially inflated. All this money is going to a Tory friend's pockets
— ginger cat (@CatOk365) September 8, 2023
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:
Imagine how many school roofs that could have repaired.
— Rootless Cosmopolitan (@brendannickg) September 8, 2023
And rebuild how many crumbling schools???
— Suzanne (@SuzanneatSavvy) September 8, 2023
Also enough to fix quite a few schools with crumbly concrete https://t.co/mhUpx0wXdr
— Mary Wombat 🐝💙 (@little_mavis) September 8, 2023
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.Support us and go ad-free
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