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All migrants removed from the Bibby Stockholm barge

The first migrants arrive on the Bibby Stockholm barge this week (photo: Getty)

This week the government has been focusing its energies on small boats crossing the channel, with several new immigration announcements. The government aim was to fill the news vacuum over the summer and put pressure on Labour.

How has Small Boats Week gone so far? Well, today both the Times and Mail led on the story that 100,000 migrants have now reached Britain via small boats since 2018. And now the Bibby Stockholm barge for housing migrants  – the symbol of the government’s tough new approach to small boat crossings – has been evacuated.

According to the Home Office, Legionella bacteria was found on the ship, which therefore had to be emptied ‘as a precautionary measure’. No migrants have reportedly been taken ill.

Readers may be wondering how long it took to arrange the evacuation of the barge – which has been kitted out to hold up to 500 people. Fortunately, the government’s glacial pace means that only 39 migrants had been housed on the boat so far – after several migrants launched legal challenges partly based on their fear of water.

One of Rishi Sunak’s five pledges for the next election is to ‘stop the boats’ – who knew he was talking about the government’s own vessels?

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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