Man who died on Bibby Stockholm had 'bust-ups with security guards'

Bibby Stockholm asylum seeker who was found ‘hanged in his room’ had ‘bust-ups with security guards and management’ before his death, fellow barge migrant claims

  • Migrants said the man had hung himself in the barge’s communal bathroom 
  • For help, call Samaritans for free on 116 123 or visit 

An asylum seeker who allegedly took his own life onboard the Bibby Stockholm had ‘conflicts with security guards’ the day before his death, a fellow migrant living on the barge has claimed. 

Two ambulances and three police cars were seen outside the controversial vessel this morning. The man’s age and country of origin are not yet known.

Police were called just after 6am to what officers described was a ‘sudden death’. The Home Office said it was ‘aware of reporting’ about the incident but released no details. 

Speaking to Andrew Marr on LBC this evening, one migrant living on the Bibby Stockholm, who used the fake name Adam, said the man died at around 6:22am this morning. 

He added that he does not know the identity of the man, but speculated it could have been a migrant from Cameroon who had ‘some conflicts with security guys and the management’ yesterday.   

Other migrants said earlier today that the man had hung himself in the barge’s communal bathroom. They said he had been crying out for help yesterday and asked for an emergency doctors appointment but ‘didn’t get any assistance’. 

He later went back to his room where he was heard ‘screaming and punching the walls’ before security intervened and ‘told him to stop’. 

A man has taken their own life onboard the Bibby Stockholm, which is pictured today  

The Refugee Council today called for an independent review into the incident, saying what had happened was an ‘appalling loss of life but tragically not surprising’

Police officers make their way up the vessel’s steps following the tragic suicide 

Adam told LBC: ‘Its all rumours. It hasn’t been confirmed yet that the guy is from Cameroon.  If it is the guy from Cameroon, he had some conflicts with security guys and the management, the manager specifically, yesterday, a couple of times because of the search they do at the gates of the barge. 

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‘Everyone is furious. What makes it harder for us is the fact that the management of the barge didn’t give any information about it. At least not yet. 

‘They didn’t tell us about the guy or who he is. They [are] still sitting with the roomate of the asylum seeker in a separate room for hours and hours just to make sure he doesn’t tell anyone about anything. 

‘Sometimes the treatment from the security guys and the management makes it much harder for people on the barge to be mentally stable or well. 

‘It is noisy, crowded, there are about 300 people at the moment on the barge despite the 60-ish of the staff members who live with us on the barge.’

Richard Drax, the MP for South Dorset, said this morning he could ‘confirm that tragically there has been a suicide’. 

The MP told The Times: ‘I am in close contact with the Home Office. Local organisations are investigating what’s happened. This is very sad news, anyone taking their life is very tragic.’   

A source said the man had a roommate who had got up early and gone to the IT room. The roommate was then told what had happened and held in the IT room. A bus carrying asylum seekers was later seen leaving the barge, with local campaigners waving and blowing kisses to show their support. 

One man at the front of the bus gestured to his neck, putting his hands around it in a strangling motion, perhaps indicating the death was a hanging. The coroner has been informed and a cause of death has not yet been confirmed. 

Another source said: ‘He was really calling out for help. He went to reception and asked for an emergency doctors appointment but they didn’t give him one. Eventually they gave him a number to call. 

‘He said he didn’t have a phone and asked for one in reception but they wouldn’t give him one. He went back to his room and was screaming and punching the walls and security just told him to stop.’    

A small number of bunches of flowers had been placed at the entrance to the port with a sign left by the Portland Global Friendship Group which said: ‘So very sad that one of our friends from a distant land has died today. May you rest in peace.’

The first asylum seekers were brought back to the barge, moored in Portland, Dorset, in October – two months after it was evacuated following the discovery of potentially fatal Legionella bacteria in the water supply. Campaigners have claimed a man onboard the vessel tried to take their own life earlier this year. 

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Home Secretary James Cleverly today promised that the incident would be investigated ‘fully’. 

He told MPs: ‘Tragically, there has been (a) death on the Bibby Stockholm barge. I’m sure that the thoughts of the whole House, like mine, are with those affected.

‘The House will understand that at this stage I am uncomfortable getting into any more details. But we will of course investigate fully.’

Downing Street said migrants living on the boat had been checked for signs of emotional trauma.  

But Heather Jones, from the Portland Friendship Group, said: ‘Although I feel shocked, it also feels very predictable. A lot of the guys are struggling with their mental health and they are not getting any support.

‘The only real support is an A4 sheet with contact numbers for mental health support but it’s not enough. These are people with real trauma, who have been uprooted from their families and need help in these difficult circumstances.’

The Refugee Council today called for an independent review into the incident, saying what had happened was an ‘appalling loss of life but tragically not surprising’.

Enver Solomon, the council’s chief executive, said: ‘This is an appalling loss of life but tragically not surprising. We know from our work supporting men, women and children in the asylum system that many are deeply traumatised and feel isolated, unable to get the help they need. Some are so desperate they self-harm and feel suicidal.

‘Nobody who comes to our country seeking asylum should be left without the support they need yet the system has more hostility than compassion built into it.

‘It is imperative that an independent review is carried out into this death so that lessons are learned to avoid any further tragedies of this kind.

‘A new approach that always sees the face behind the case and treats every individual person with the dignity and humanity they deserve is urgently needed.’

The first asylum seekers were brought back to the barge, moored in Portland, Dorset, in October 

Asylum seekers boarding the Bibby Stockholm in October 

Asked to react to news of the asylum seeker’s death, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘I’m afraid I just simply haven’t seen this breaking news, so I don’t know the details of it.

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‘But obviously, first and foremost, my heart goes out to the family and friends of an individual who has lost their life.’

Speaking as he answered questions following a speech in Buckinghamshire this morning, Sir Keir added: ‘I don’t know the circumstances so I’ll try and give a fuller answer when I do.

‘But my human instinct is, of course, with the individual who has lost his or her life and the family and friends of that individual who will be absolutely grieving just as we speak.’

Charity Care4Calais criticised conditions on the Bibby Stockholm, which has been blighted by problems since it docked in Portland earlier this year.

Steve Smith, the organisation’s chief executive, said: ‘Our thoughts are with the person who has lost their life, their family and their friends. They are also with all those stuck on board the Bibby Stockholm who will be experiencing a deep feeling of grief and worry today.

‘The UK Government must take responsibility for this human tragedy. They have wilfully ignored the trauma they are inflicting on people who are sent to the Bibby Stockholm, and the hundreds being accommodated in former military barracks.

‘They are being separated from the rest of society and we have witnessed a serious deterioration of people’s mental health. We have regularly been reporting suicidal intentions amongst residents and no action is taken.

‘This can no longer continue. Asylum seekers are human beings, many of whom have experienced the worst traumas imaginable through war, torture and persecution.

‘It’s time our political leaders treated them as human beings, listened to the trauma they have experienced and offered them sanctuary. The Government’s proxy war against refugees is costing lives.’

Former home secretary Suella Braverman previously insisted the Bibby barge was safe amid threats of legal action from firefighters and protests about the suitability of the plan.

Campaigning charity Freedom from Torture said it was ‘devastated’ to hear of the death as it called for an end to the use of barges and barracks as asylum accommodation.

An aerial view of a blue coach with asylum seekers on board arriving at Portland Port in Dorset in October 

People taking part in the No to the Barge protest in Portland last month 

Ann Salter from the charity said: ‘This latest tragedy is yet another reminder that the Government’s punitive anti-refugee policies are not only cruel but they cost lives.

‘From the survivors I work with every day, I know that the cramped and dangerous conditions on the Bibby can be profoundly retraumatising for those who’ve survived torture and persecution, in addition to traumatic experiences they’ve suffered en route to the UK.

‘Until this Government stops forcing refugees into unsafe and undignified accommodation, we will continue to see horrific stories of deaths, suicide attempts, serious health issues and unnecessary suffering.

‘It’s time this Government ends the use of barges and barracks as asylum accommodation once and for all.

‘Those seeking protection need to be housed in our communities, where they can properly access the support they need to recover and rebuild their lives.’

Portland has been a focus of protests by campaign groups who oppose the use of the barge.

Nicola David, of the One Life To Live campaign, said that a letter signed by the 39 men who previously stayed on the barge described how they had found the Bibby Stockholm to be a ‘terrifying residence’ like a prison and had left them feeling ‘stress and anxiety’.

She said: ‘Nothing about the Bibby Stockholm has gone well – it wasn’t even the Home Office’s first or second choice of barge, so they had to settle for something 50 years old, rotten, and unfit for use.

‘The barge had endless delays for repairs, Legionella, failed plumbing, and fire safety failure.

‘I discovered that it costs more per head than hotels, not less, so the Government’s strategy doesn’t add up. And there are claims going through the High Court.’

In September, local councillor Carralyn Parkes, who is mayor of Portland, lost a High Court fight against Home Secretary Suella Braverman over the lawfulness of housing asylum seekers on the barge.

Mrs Parkes wanted to argue that housing migrants on the barge in Portland Harbour was illegal because it breaches planning and equality laws.

But Mr Justice Holgate ruled that Mrs Parkes, a member of Portland Town Council and the mayor of Portland, did not have an arguable case.

Lawyers for the Home Office argued Mrs Parkes’s claim was ‘out of time’, ‘without merit’ and said the judge should refuse to give permission for the challenge to proceed to a trial.

Government lawyers said the local planning authority did not think planning permission was required.

A photo of a TV room on the barge, which was previously used to house offshore workers 

A range of meals will be served from the barge’s canteen

Today’s tragic news comes as the Government faces intense pressure over its immigration policy, with Rishi Sunak trying to avert a damaging rebellion by right-wing Tory MPs over his Rwanda policy 

They also argued there was no ‘general principle’ that housing ‘non-British asylum seekers’ together on a vessel was ‘unlawful’ under a public sector equality duty.

Opposition to the Bibby Stockholm has also come from organisations including the Fire Brigades Union, which has warned over ‘serious fire risks’ and warned of the risk of overcrowding on the vessel if it reaches full capacity. 

In response, then Home Secretary Suella Braverman pointed out that the barge has been used as accommodation numerous times before. 

‘I believe the barge is safe,’ Ms Braverman told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in August.

‘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, so I’m very confident that this barge is safe for human habitation.

‘We followed all of the advice and protocols in anticipation of embarkation.’

Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said today: ‘The thoughts of the FBU are very much with the person who has so tragically lost their life on board this barge.

‘Our union sends its condolences to the family and friends of the deceased.

‘The FBU warned this summer that detaining vulnerable human beings in prison-like conditions on a barge was a cruel and dangerous policy being pursued by the Home Office.

‘While the circumstances surrounding the death are not yet known, there are still very real safety concerns about forcibly keeping people onboard a floating prison.

‘Ministers must end this barbaric practice immediately.’

Dorset Police said: ‘At 6.22am on Tuesday 12 December 2023, Dorset Police received a report of a sudden death of a resident on the Bibby Stockholm. 

‘Officers are conducting enquiries into the circumstances of the incident. The coroner’s office has been notified of the death.’

A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘This is a tragic incident, and our thoughts are with everyone affected.

‘The welfare of all those in our care is of the utmost importance, and we take our responsibility for their wellbeing incredibly seriously.

‘This will now be investigated by the police and coroner. It is right that the facts and circumstances surrounding this death are established.’

MailOnline has contacted Bibby Marine, who own the Bibby Stockholm, and  Corporate Travel Management, who provide management onboard the vessel. 

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