Housing migrants on Bibby Stockholm costs more than renting house in Sandbanks

The Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset houses 431 asylum seekers
The Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset houses 431 asylum seekers - Matt Keeble/PA

Housing asylum seekers on the Bibby Stockholm barge is more expensive than providing each migrant with a rented house on Sandbanks, figures suggest.

The barge in Portland Harbour, Dorset, is costing taxpayers £6,000 per migrant per month.

Yet further along the coast on the millionaire’s resort of Sandbanks, a three-bedroom maisonette with sea views costs £2,850 a month to rent.

Based on three people sharing this equates to £950 each a month.

The figures are based on analysis of public data and numbers released by the Home Office under the Freedom of Information Act which show the cost of the 430 capacity barge over 18 months is £34.8 million.

That equates to almost £4,500 per month per head.

‘Icon of incompetence’

But the figures also show that as of the end of January only 321 asylum seekers were on board, the equivalent of £6,022 per head per month.

The Home Office has said the accommodation barge was a temporary measure to help clear the backlog of asylum seeker applications and cut down the exorbitant £6 million a day cost of housing migrants in hotels.

But those against the barge have said the scheme cannot possibly save money and are furious that they now appear to have been proved right.

Kate Robson, from the No to the Barge campaign group, said: “Mooring the Bibby Stockholm at Portland Port has probably been the most divisive decision ever made within Weymouth and Portland.

“It serves no purpose and has failed to hit any of its objectives. It is not more cost effective.

“There are exclusive services provided to that barge, they have got catering on board, free buses into Weymouth. It’s really indulgent.

“It was supposed to be this deterrent, like Rwanda, but it’s an icon of incompetence.

“There’s a cost of living crisis and we, the British taxpayer, are paying £40,000 a year for each migrant on the barge. They might as well hire them a flat in Sandbanks or Chelsea, or send them on a cruise.

“They put them on in August then closed until October because of the legionella outbreak. It was costing half a million a month when there was no one on it.

“This barge was supposed to save taxpayers money.”

Extra costs incurred

Ms Robson also voiced concerns that the Government said the barge was only due to remain in place for 18 months, with the contract ending in January 2025.

But there have been recent job adverts posted for two asylum social workers with a contract of 18 months.

This suggests the barge will not be removed in January next year but remain in place until at least December 2025.

A National Audit Office report said that although the Home Office had made progress to reduce the use of hotels for asylum seekers, in its hurry to set sites up it had incurred a lot of extra costs and increased risk.

It also said the sites that had already opened were accommodating less than half what they were expected to.

The report said: “The site at Scampton (Lincolnshire) is yet to open, and Wethersfield and the Bibby Stockholm are accommodating far fewer people than originally planned.

“It appears inevitable that, collectively, these early sites will now cost more than the alternative of using hotels.”

The barge underwent a refit to add extra accommodation and was supposed to house 506 migrants, all male and aged between 18 and 65, but the maximum figure was later reduced to 431.

The men are free to come and go as they please and a free hourly bus service was provided to take them out of the port to Portland and Weymouth.

Residents were concerned about the impact of that many additional people on a small community where services like GP surgeries and dentists are already over-stretched.

The Home Office was approached for comment.