Bibby Stockholm staff 'laughed and joked' over asylum seeker death

Staff on the government's migrant barge "laughed and joked" over the death of an asylum seeker on board, a former cleaner on the vessel has claimed.

Albanian migrant Leonard Farruku, 27, is thought to have taken his own life on the Bibby Stockholm in December.

Alongside the allegation, former residents told an inquiry conditions on the barge were like being "in prison".

The Home Office has said it does not "recognise the claims" made in the inquiry's report.

The Bibby Stockholm barge
The three-storey barge is moored at Portland Port [PA Media]

Workers on the vessel, moored at Portland, Dorset, joked that there was "one less Muslim mouth to feed", former cleaner Levana said.

The ex-employee, who said she worked on the barge from its opening in August 2023 until late December, spoke at a meeting in parliament.

She said the "disgusting" joke, within a week of Mr Farruku's death, was "the overall vibe from a lot of the workers there".

She added: "I was starting to think: why put these people that have these views and prejudice in charge of looking after hundreds of men who have come here for safe haven?"

Levana said she had not felt able to report the incident.

Migrants boarding the barge
The barge accommodates men seeing asylum [PA Media]

The parliamentary meeting was held to launch a report by groups that campaign against the barge, including Care4Calais, Stand Up To Racism and the Portland Global Friendship Group.

According to the document, Levana was disciplined and then "unfairly dismissed" for talking to residents.

She said: "I was told that I was being given a verbal warning because I should not be friendly with the service users in this way. After this I worked one more booked shift and then was offered no further work."

Several migrants described feeling like they were "in prison", the report added.

One of the open areas on board the barge. It shows a green courtyard with the cabins surrounding it on four sides
One migrant said residents felt deterred from leaving the barge due to tight security [PA Media]

One former occupant said: "It felt like we were being watched all the time, searched, but also not treated like adults, with a curfew and not being able to go out when we wanted.

"I sometimes just felt like a zoo animal."

Another former resident reported: "When leaving and entering we have to be scanned, like airport security. Many people don't go outside because of this.

"One day I was standing in the restaurant and I said the food was not good. The security staff said: 'Keep your mouth shut and sit down.'"

Steve Smith, chief executive of Care4Calais, said: "People should not be accommodated in these prison-like conditions."

Up to 500 men are housed on the three-storey vessel while they await the outcome of their asylum applications.

In a response to the written document, the Home Office said: "We do not recognise the claims made in this report.

"The Bibby Stockholm is part of the government's plan to reduce the use of expensive hotels.

"There are rigorous safeguarding processes in place on the barge. Residents have access to health and social care services, including mental health support."

Follow BBC South on Facebook, X, or Instagram. Send your story ideas to or via WhatsApp on 0808 100 2240.