At least 135 asylum seekers are currently residing on the Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset, a development that has stirred both welcoming initiatives and protests within the local community.
Stand Up To Racism Dorset and the Portland Global Friendship Group organized a warm reception for the newcomers at the port gates on Sunday, November 19, 2023. Simultaneously, the No To The Barge group voiced concerns over the potential impact on the local area by staging a protest, as reported by Sky News.
Heather, the Coordinator of the Portland Global Friendship Group, revealed to Sky News that the number of asylum seekers aboard the barge is steadily increasing. “The number I know is 135, but I do know that more arrived on Friday, November 24, 2023, so that number will be higher,” said Heather, who chose not to disclose her full name. She emphasized the challenges faced by those adjusting to life on the barge, citing difficulties experienced by some individuals.
Previously, in October 2023, migrants had to return to the Bibby Stockholm after an evacuation prompted by an outbreak of legionella bacteria. Heather highlighted concerns raised by asylum seekers, particularly the disconnection of televisions in each bedroom. According to her, the Home Office justified this measure as an attempt to encourage socialization among the residents, but critics argue that it deprives them of meaningful activities.
To address this issue, the volunteer group has stepped in, organizing events for asylum seekers five days a week. Activities such as conversation clubs, fishing trips, and sports groups have been initiated to foster community engagement. Heather reported a growing participation, with over 70 asylum seekers actively engaging in these events, and new arrivals joining the activities each week.
Remarkably, some asylum seekers have started volunteering themselves, contributing to the local community. Heather highlighted instances where individuals were assisting the homeless, providing hot meals, and even using their skills to support community groups on the island.
Despite these positive efforts, a separate protest unfolded, with around a dozen campaigners from the No To The Barge group marching against what they perceive as socially divisive and unsupported mooring of the Bibby Barge on the beautiful island of Portland, Dorset. In a statement, the group expressed the frustration and anger of ordinary people on the island, signaling a broader sentiment against the current situation.
As the community grapples with the complex dynamics surrounding the Bibby Stockholm barge, the divergent responses underscore the ongoing debate over the integration of asylum seekers into local communities and the need for comprehensive and inclusive solutions.
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