MORE than 20 jobs have been created as the number of asylum seekers moving on to the Bibby Stockholm continues to increase.
The latest update from the Multi Agency Forum (MAF), which supports operational planning of the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, has been published.
The MAF consists of representatives from the Home Office, Dorset Council, Portland Town Council, Weymouth Town Council, Dorset Police, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, NHS Dorset and the barge operators Landry & Kling and CTM.
The group said the Home Office had been gradually increasing numbers on-board the vessel since mid-October.
A spokesperson said the Community Impact Group, led by Dorset Council and including representatives from Dorset Police, Weymouth and Portland Town Councils, the business community and community groups, reported no issues or concerns to note relating to the barge.
“The barge operators have already recruited over 20 local people to support residents onboard, and there will be further job opportunities in the coming weeks,” they said.
“They are also spending about £1 million a year with local farmers and suppliers for food produce.
“While there have been concerns that the presence of the barge would affect the number of cruise passengers and therefore, impact the local economy, Portland Port has confirmed 2023 as a record year, welcoming the largest number of passengers in its 27-year history.”
It said two protests held on Portland on Sunday, November 19, saw around 60 people turn out in opposition to the barge.
“The protests passed off peacefully and no arrests were made,” the spokesperson went on.
“Dorset Police report that they have not seen any increase in hate crime locally and that other rates of crime remain low. They continue to monitor and review their community impact assessments.”
Meanwhile, voluntary and community groups are arranging further activities for the barge residents, including English language lessons, access to libraries, sports and recreation activities including walking and cycling groups, and faith and wellbeing services.
“Voluntary and community activities promote community cohesion and are much appreciated by the barge residents onboard, with many of them taking part regularly,” the spokesperson said.
“A quarter of barge residents are already taking up volunteering opportunities locally and are keen to contribute to the local community.
“As the asylum seekers participate in more activities and meet more local people, it is increasingly clear from the feedback we are receiving from councillors and others spending time with them, that they are appreciative of the welcome and support they are receiving, and prefer life on the barge compared to hotels.”