Bibby Stockholm Update
This is a joint update from the subgroups that feed into the Multi Agency Forum (MAF), which supports operational planning of the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland. The MAF consists of representatives from the Home Office, Dorset Council, Portland Town Council, Weymouth Town Council, Dorset Police, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, NHS Dorset and the barge operators Landry & Kling and CTM. Please do share this update with your networks and communities.
Issued to stakeholders on Tuesday 28 November 2023.
Since mid-October, Home Office has been gradually moving asylum seekers onboard the Bibby Stockholm. Numbers continue to increase at a steady pace as part of a carefully structured phased approach, which has been discussed between Home Office and local partners.
Media coverage continues, but the sentiment appears to be shifting to more balanced and positive reporting both locally and nationally.
The Multi-Agency Forum continues to meet to oversee operational decisions, with the expectation that this will eventually be replaced with the Community Impact Group, which is already actively monitoring the situation on the ground on a daily basis. The Community Impact Group, led by Dorset Council, has representatives from Dorset Police, Weymouth and Portland Town Councils, the local business community, and community groups, so that any issues or concerns can be flagged in ‘real time’. To date there have been no issues or concerns to note relating to the barge.
The barge operators have already recruited over 20 local people to support residents onboard, and there will be further job opportunities in the coming weeks. They are also spending about £1 million a year with local farmers and suppliers for food produce. While there have been concerns that the presence of the barge would affect the number of cruise passengers and therefore, impact the local economy, Portland Port has confirmed 2023 as a record year, welcoming the largest number of passengers in its 27-year history. Next year is also expected to be busy, with an early start to the season in February.
Two protests were held on Portland on Sunday 19 November, with around 60 people in total attending the ‘No to the Barge’ and ‘Stand Up to Racism’ events. The protests passed off peacefully and no arrests were made. Dorset Police report that they have not seen any increase in hate crime locally and that other rates of crime remain low. They continue to monitor and review their community impact assessments.
Voluntary and Community Sector organisations are arranging further activities for the barge residents which include English language lessons, access to library facilities, sports and recreation activities including walking and cycling groups, and faith and wellbeing services. Voluntary and community activities promote community cohesion and are much appreciated by the barge residents onboard, with many of them taking part regularly. A quarter of barge residents are already taking up volunteering opportunities locally and are keen to contribute to the local community. As the asylum seekers participate in more activities and meet more local people, it is increasingly clear from the feedback we are receiving from councillors and others spending time with them, that they are appreciative of the welcome and support they are receiving, and prefer life on the barge compared to hotels.
Transport to take barge residents through the port to local drop off points is well used. This service will increase in frequency as more people arrive on board, and voluntary activities step up. These services are kept under review to ensure they both meet the needs of the asylum seekers, without adversely affecting the local community.
We are continuing to review communications and engagement activity and are looking for you, our local communities, to help us with this. Do share these updates and information with other people in your networks. The recent coverage in Dorset Live and Daily Telegraph result from people who receive this update forwarding to their social media networks. Further information is available at Portland Port: factsheet – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) for sharing with your networks.