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Currently moored in Portland, Dorset, the barge is intended to house asylum seekers. Any fires aboard the Bibby Stockholm would require firefighters to put them out. The union is worried about an alleged lack of entry and exit points, congested hallways and doors, and rising occupancy.
The barge was initially intended to accommodate 222 people, but it is now anticipated to accommodate more than 500. The FBU has previously criticised the government's proposals to exempt accommodations for asylum seekers from the need for an HMO licence.
The HMO licencing process gives Local Authorities a duty to check that adequate safety measures and equipment are in place. The letter to the Home Secretary can be viewed in full below. Ben Selby, Fire Brigades Union assistant general secretary, said: “The Fire Brigades Union represents the overwhelming majority of firefighters and emergency control staff across the UK, and it is they who will be forced to deal with the consequences of any fire on board the Bibby Stockholm.
“As firefighters, we are driven by the need to prevent the loss of life and protect public safety. Everyone has the right to live in safe and decent housing, no matter where they are from.“
The government has already removed crucial fire safety precautions for accommodations for asylum seekers.
It now wants to load more than 500 people onto an offshore barge that can only accommodate about 200. This puts the safety of firefighters at risk and is a cruel and careless approach to the welfare of asylum seekers. We have experienced declining living standards, declining living wages, and severely reduced public services for more than ten years.
Attacking asylum seekers will not build a single house, train a single nurse, or pay anyone a decent wage; it is a technique for dividing working people against each other.”
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05 September 2023