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First Asylum Seekers Expected To Arrive On Bibby Stockholm Barge On Monday

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The first arrivals on the controversial Bibby Stockholm barge are now expected on Monday, Sky News understands.

The project, which will see asylum seekers moved on to the barge to end the use of expensive hotels, has been beset by a number of delays.

Firefighters have warned the vessel, which is docked in Dorset’s Portland Port, is a “potential death trap” and raised concerns in particular about overcrowding.

Deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden said on Thursday he was confident the government will be able to address the safety issues raised, adding: “I’m absolutely certain we will be able to get people on this vessel in the coming weeks.”

A government source has now suggested the move will happen quicker than that, with the first batch of the 500 asylum seekers expected to arrive there on Monday.

Earlier this week, Sky News reported that delays to moving asylum seekers onto the Bibby Stockholm barge were now being caused by checks on working practices.

A Home Office source confirmed reports that fire safety issues did lead to initial setbacks, saying a door had been put on the wrong way around.

But now that has been fixed, there is another hold up because the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is looking at working practices for port authority workers, they added.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said it believes the vessel was a “death trap”, but Net Zero Secretary Grant Shapps dismissed the claim, telling ITV there was “no reason why it wouldn’t be absolutely safe”.

The barge, which is currently docked in Portland on the coast of Dorset, was supposed to start accepting arrivals last week, but the date was pushed back as more work was needed.

The first people were then due to move on to the vessel on Tuesday this week, but that plan was also held up after last-minute meetings were held responding to fire safety concerns.

Prime Rishi Sunak denied getting the barge up and running had been a “shambles”, telling LBC: “The point here is not is it next week, is it yesterday, the fact is this is an example of me doing something different that hasn’t been done before to help solve a serious problem.”

The 222-bedroom Bibby Stockholm will eventually house up to 500 male asylum seekers who are currently staying in hotels, as the government seeks to cut its accommodation costs while their claims are processed.

But the current plan is to start with 50 people – when the vessel is ready.

The barge will have 24-hour security and accommodate single men only, who will sleep in bunk beds with between two and six people per en-suite room.

Reports of fire safety issues surfaced in recent days, with the FBU claiming the government was taking “a reckless approach to the safety and wellbeing of both vulnerable refugees and firefighters”.

The FBU wrote to the Home Office to demand a meeting with Home Secretary Suella Braverman over the safety concerns, saying: “Fire does not discriminate and therefore neither should safety regulations.”

Asked about the concerns on Tuesday, Mr Sunak said: “All migrant accommodation has to go through a series of checks and inspections to make sure it complies with regulations. That’s what’s happening in this case.

“This is ultimately about fairness. I don’t think it’s fair that British taxpayers are forking out £6m a day to house illegal migrants in hotels.”