There may be a legal challenge regarding fire safety concerning the government's plans to house asylum seekers on a barge off the south coast of England.

The Bibby Stockholm's overcrowding and fire exit access are just two of the concerns raised in a letter from lawyers for the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) to Home Secretary Suella Braverman. 

The government has been given until Thursday to respond. 

Suella Braverman, secretary of state for housing, declared, "I am confident the barge is safe." Currently berthed in Portland Port, Dorset, the Bibby Stockholm is a three-story barge that can accommodate 500 men while they wait to hear about their asylum claims. 

At the beginning of this month, the first individuals were transferred to it; however, when the Legionella bacterium, which may cause serious sickness, was discovered, they were subsequently removed. The FBU's general secretary, Matt Wrack, stated that the union had turned to the judicial system after attempting for weeks to voice its concerns to the administration. 

The ship had previously been called a "potential death trap" by the union. Lawyers for the FBU referenced media reports in their letter to the Home Office that said the Bibby Stockholm only had 222 single-occupancy rooms but that further beds had been added to each to bring the total number of beds to 506. 

Other reports said that, while the barge had three fire exits, one was not operational because it was at the end of a gangway that had been deemed too steep to be safely used. 

A whistleblower in the local authority is also quoted as telling the Times that fire checks in July had led to serious safety concerns and describing the barge as having the potential to become a "floating Grenfell".

The FBU previously asked to meet Ms Braverman to discuss its concerns, but the request was turned down. "I'm confident that the barge is safe," she told BBC One's Breakfast programme when asked about the FBU's concerns. "This barge has accommodated people in the past—asylum seekers, oil rig workers—and barges of this kind have been used to accommodate asylum seekers, for example, in Scotland." 

The Scottish government said that Ms Braverman's statement was not correct. "No vessels have been used to accommodate people seeking asylum in Scotland," a spokesman said. "We have made it clear to the Home Office that vessels are not suitable accommodation for people seeking asylum." 

The spokesman said the Scottish government temporarily housed Ukrainian refugees on cruise ships. "Housing asylum seekers in barges cannot and should not be compared," the spokesman said. "There are fundamental differences." Ms Braverman accused the FBU of "carrying out a political attack" on the government. "They want to stop us, just like we're dealing with the range of forces who want to stop us from stopping the boats. They're all gleeful about the prospect of us not putting people on the barge." 

The Health and Safety Executive, Dorset Council, the Fire Authority, and the police all stated that the government had adhered to their own regulations. When passengers will board the Bibby Stockholm again, Ms Braverman said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, it will be "as soon as we have finished all of the relevant checks." 

She said she was "frustrated" and "angry" by what had happened, adding, "I take responsibility; the buck stops with me." 

A Home Office spokesperson said, "The health and welfare of asylum seekers remain of the utmost priority." 

Before the first passengers boarded, the Bibby Stockholm successfully passed all fire and safety tests. Before finalising preparations to receive asylum seekers, the vessel underwent a mandatory examination and refit.

The barge has already encountered a number of legal issues, such as whether the government has obtained the necessary planning permissions and challenges from refugee charities that represent specific migrants. 

The most recent issue arises as the Home Office considers plans to fit GPS tags to individuals entering the UK illegally as a substitute for detaining them due to a lack of space in the immigration detention estate, according to the Times.

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