A Nigerian man attempted suicide after finding his name on a list of people being sent to the Bibby Stockholm. The case exposes the traumatic impact that the barge is having on asylum seekers in the UK.
Bibby Stockholm transfer list
An asylum seeker attempted to hang himself in a Colchester car park on 26 October. According to a press release by Colchester-based Refugee, Asylum Seeker and Migrant Action (RAMA), the man had just discovered he was being sent to the Bibby Stockholm. Another refugee at the hotel found him and alerted a security guard. They cut the Nigerian man down and an air ambulance later took him to Colchester Hospital, where doctors put him on life support.
RAMA said this isn’t an isolated case, however:
Eight other asylum-seekers at the hotel are also due to be transferred to the Bibby Stockholm. Six of them said they would rather kill themselves than be sent there, and RAMA believes that four of them are serious about intending to take their own lives.
Moreover, one refugee attempted suicide while on the Bibby Stockholm. A letter written by some of those housed on the barge and published by Portland Global Friendship Group on Facebook on 25 August said:
Also, in a tragic incident, one of the asylum seekers attempted suicide, but we acted promptly and prevented this unfortunate event.
Some friends even said they wished they had the courage to commit suicide, and our personal belief is that many of these individuals might resort to this foolishness to escape from problems in the future.
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‘Strongest possible protest against inhumanity’
The Nigerian man who attempted to hang himself wasn’t a new arrival to the UK. RAMA said he had arrived as an unaccompanied child and lived in foster care until the age of 18. Five years later, the Home Office wanted him moved to the Bibby Stockholm.
According to Maria Wilby of RAMA, the unnamed man’s reaction reflects anxieties widespread amongst Colchester’s asylum seekers:
They are grieving the fact that the Home Office is closing the hotel down. While it may not be perfect, it’s been their home for up to a year. They’ve planted trees in Colchester, attended therapy here, volunteered here, made friends here. They are no problem to anyone; local police have confirmed there have been no criminal incidents arising either from the men at the hotel or from other asylum-seekers dispersed in the community. And yet they’ve been treated in a way that is beyond inhumane, and which disregards all the efforts which they have made to find community here. This suicide attempt is the strongest possible protest against that inhumanity, and also shows just how much the Bibby Stockholm is feared.
Meanwhile, the Guardian said it had confirmed two other suicides of refugees in hotels. Afroze Fatima Zaidi recently reported for the Canary on the “inhumane” conditions that many refugees find themselves in at hotels.
Cost of racist policies
The Canary has repeatedly reported on the racism of the Bibby Stockholm and what it represents. This case highlights the deeply personal cost of that racism. Nicola David of refugee support group One Life To Live emphasised this in RAMA’s press release:
This has been a horrific incident – a tragedy which was entirely preventable. Before COVID, asylum-seekers lived among us in the community. Now, they are ‘othered’: segregated away into ghettoes and deprived of respect and dignity. It never ceases to amaze me that major hotel brands and their franchisees are willing to take the government shilling and turn the other cheek to what goes on in their properties.
Here is a young man, with his whole life ahead of him, who was treated as a number and not a human being, and for whom the prospect of the Bibby Stockholm was simply too much. The Home Office should feel deep shame – if it knows how.
The Bibby Stockholm is little more than a prison ship for people that haven’t committed a crime. And its existence alone is enough to drive already vulnerable people to the brink.
The Guardian said prime minister Rishi Sunak “ignored” a question about the suicide attempt mentioned in the asylum seekers’ letter. No doubt he’d ignore questions about the latest attempt too. And that, of course, about sums up the government’s attitude to the harm it is causing asylum seekers.
Featured image via The Telegraph/YouTube
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