Braverman sees off legal claim she broke law over barge to house asylum seekers

Home Secretary wants to move 500 migrants on to the Bibby Stockholm barge

The Bibby Stockholm barge the Home Office intends to use to house asylum seekers. EPA
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The UK government has won a legal battle over its decision to house hundreds of asylum seekers on a barge.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman had faced a claim that she had broken the law in not seeking planning permission for the Bibby Stockholm to moor in Portland harbour.

The government hopes to house up to 500 asylum seekers on the barge in an attempt to reduce the cost of accommodating them in hotels,

But it faced a legal challenge by Carralyn Parkes, a member of Portland Town Council and the mayor of Portland.

The first asylum seekers arrived on the barge in August but were moved off again days later after tests revealed the presence of Legionella – the bacteria that can cause the potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease.

Ms Parkes argued that the Bibby Stockholm constitutes a development and a permanent structure, so the Home Office should have submitted a planning application before deciding to use it house migrants.

There had been no compliance with environmental-impact assessment duties, she claimed.

But lawyers representing Ms Braverman said the challenge was made to a decision taken in April to house "destitute asylum seekers on a specially adapted" barge.

Calling for the judge to refuse to give permission for the challenge to proceed to a trial, they argued that Ms Parkes's claim was "out of time" and "without merit".

The government’s lawyers said the local council did not think planning permission was required.

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.

Judge Mr Justice Holgate agreed with them and ruled that Ms Parkes did not have an arguable case.

It is expected the first asylum seekers could be returned to the barge next week, after it was evacuated when the Legionella bacteria was found in the water supply.

The Home Office said all necessary tests have been completed on the vessel, which has been out of use since August.

Letters are being sent to asylum seekers confirming their re-embarkation and it is understood the first people could begin returning to the vessel on October 19.

Updated: October 11, 2023, 1:55 PM