A 23-year-old Nigerian asylum seeker has made an attempt on his own life in an Essex hotel car park after hearing he was due to be transferred on to the Bibby Stockhom barge, the UK Guardian reported on Sunday, October 29, 2023.
Bibby Stockhom is an engineless barge that is used for an accommodation and docked in the port of Portland, Dorset.
Between 1994 and 1998, it was used for the homeless in Hamburg, Germany. And in 2005, the Netherlands used it to detain asylum seekers in Rotterdam.
In 2023, the UK government revealed its plans to use the barge as housing for asylum seekers.
According to the report, the Nigerian national was airlifted to hospital and placed on life support on Thursday, October 26, 2023, two days after being told he was due to be moved.
The charity Refugee, Asylum Seeker and Migrant Action (Rama) said the man had returned to his hotel which the Home Office uses to accommodate asylum seekers, at about 6pm.
He saw that his hotel room number had been written on a whiteboard in the hotel reception as one of the numbers due to transfer to the barge on Tuesday, October 31.
After seeing that he was on the list, the man went outside and tried to kill himself. He was found alive but in a bad state by an asylum seeker who heard the man in a state of distress.
He was taken by air ambulance to Colchester general hospital where he remains in a serious condition.
Asylum seekers placed on the barge in August warned that conditions onboard the Bibby Stockholm had driven one person to attempt suicide before everyone was evacuated due to the discovery of Legionella bacteria. A small cohort of asylum seekers returned to the barge on 19 October, amid protests by local campaigners and Just Stop Oil.
The Nigerian man arrived in the UK as an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child and lived in foster care until reaching the age of 18. Rama is supporting the man and others in the hotel and at other accommodation sites in Essex.
The Guardian has confirmed two other recent deaths of asylum seekers in hotels, both understood to be suicides.
According to Rama there are eight asylum seekers in the hotel due to board the barge on Tuesday.
Maria Wilby, the operational lead at Rama, said: “There are 114 asylum seekers at the hotel an9d a very high number of them have wounds from self-harm. Ten of them have been on hunger strike because the food is so poor. People are losing significant amounts of weight,”
“There have also been six occasions in the past year, since the hotel was stood up in November 2022, when our staff, volunteers and colleagues have had to talk people down from the flyover on the A12, from where they planned to jump and take their own lives. The last time was just two weeks ago.”
The asylum seekers, staff and security guards are all reportedly extremely distressed by the incident.
The hotel is due to close soon as part of the immigration minister Robert Jenrick’s plan to close an initial 50 hotels by the end of January, as announced in the House of Commons on 24 October.
Wilby added: “The asylum seekers 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. This suicide attempt is the strongest possible protest against that inhumanity, and also shows just how much the Bibby Stockholm is feared.”
Nicola David, of One Life To Live, which campaigns against inappropriate accommodation for asylum seekers and has raised multiple concerns about the Bibby Stockholm, said: “This is a horrific incident – a tragedy which was entirely preventable
“Is there any part of the ‘stop the boats’ drive that’s working? Perhaps only the fact that the Bibby Stockholm is, indeed, proving to be a deterrent.
“But instead of preventing people from making the Channel crossing, asylum seekers already here are choosing to kill themselves rather than be sent to the barge. It’s certainly a deterrent – a deeply, deeply cruel and shameful one.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The health and welfare of asylum seekers remains the utmost priority. We work continually to ensure the needs and vulnerabilities of those residing in asylum accommodation are identified and considered, including those related to mental health and trauma
“Residents are provided with ample support to understand any changes in accommodation, including access to staff and mental health support.”