Updates, commentary, training and advice on immigration and asylum law

New Home Office guidance on ‘Failure to travel to Bibby Stockholm’


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The Home Office has issued new guidance on the removal of asylum support from people who decline to move onto the Bibby Stockholm barge (update: as of 24 October 2023 it appears this guidance has been taken down, archived version is here. Second update: on 25 October 2023 version 2 was published, a comparison between the two versions can be found here). This article refers to version 1 of the guidance.

Previously, people were given very short notice of the move, of just a few hours in some cases. Following a legal challenge by Migrants Organise this has been extended to five working days to enable people to make representations as to why they should not be moved to the barge. The guidance states that:

Only in exceptional circumstances will an individual be deemed to be unsuitable for the vessel, including:

  • where the individual embarking carries a life-threatening infectious disease, which would put others on the vessel at risk
  • where an individual has evidence of a serious physical or mental health problem and accommodating them on the vessel would put them at serious harm
  • where an individual requires medical care requiring regular access to care which cannot be provided at the premises on which they are being accommodated, and where travel to hospital from that location would worsen their condition

The guidance is also very restrictive on providing an extension of that deadline and on accepting representations made after the deadline. This is problematic due to the severe shortage of legal aid. As pointed out by Public Law Project, the south west region has immigration and asylum legal aid capacity for 300 people a year and the Bibby Stockholm is supposed to accommodate 500 people.

Further, as indicated by the immigration minister in August, the guidance states that those who refuse to move to the barge will lose their asylum support. Specifically, the process is that they will be evicted, the space on the Bibby Stockholm will be kept open for them for a further five days and then their support will be stopped if they do not move onto the barge. It is difficult to see how such a hard line on extension requests is either fair or sustainable given those consequences, particularly with the known lack of lawyers in the area.

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Sonia Lenegan

Sonia Lenegan is an experienced immigration, asylum and public law solicitor. She has been practising for over ten years and was previously legal director at the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association and legal and policy director at Rainbow Migration. Sonia is the Editor of Free Movement.