Almost 40 asylum seekers are being taken away on the government barge Bibby Stockholm after bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease were found on board.
The bacteria were found in the water supply but it is understood no migrants have fallen ill and the evacuation is a precautionary measure.
Immigration Secretary Robert Jenrick is reportedly holding meetings on the situation.
Later, personnel were also picked up from the barge. The migrants will likely be accommodated again in home office hotels.
The first group was moved to the controversial Portland Port accommodation in Dorset on Monday.
After several delays and security checks, it was originally estimated that the first group to be brought onto the ship would be around 50 people. But “last-minute legal challenges” reduced that number and there were 39 people on board.
The government had hoped to accommodate up to 500 men on board, and dozens of other asylum-seekers were initially handpicked for the barge, but their transfers were canceled after legal letters to the Home Office that raised mental and physical health issues, among other issues.
Legionnaires’ disease is a lung infection — a potentially fatal form of pneumonia that develops when a person breathes air that contains Legionella bacteria in water droplets. It can be treated with antibiotics.
dr Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter School of Medicine, said better plumbing with hotter water would reduce the risk of bacteria spreading and coming out of the shower.
Those most at risk are people over 45, smokers and heavy drinkers, and those with chronic respiratory or kidney disease, or those with compromised immune systems.
dr Pankhania said no one knew what the risk was, but said most migrants on the boat didn’t fall into those categories.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The health and well-being of those on the ship is our top priority.
“Environmental samples from the Bibby Stockholm water system have shown levels of Legionella bacteria that require further investigation.
“As a result of these findings, the Home Office has worked closely with the UKHSA, following their advice in line with long-established public health processes and ensuring that all protocols from the Dorset Council and Dorset NHS environmental health team are followed.
“As a precautionary measure, all 39 asylum seekers who arrived on the ship this week will be disembarked while further screening is carried out.
“No person on board showed Legionnaires’ symptoms and asylum seekers are receiving appropriate counseling and support.”
“The samples taken relate only to the water system of the ship itself and therefore do not directly indicate a risk to the wider Portland community, nor does it relate to the freshwater entering the ship.” Legionnaires’ disease does not transmit from human to human Person.”
When the bacteria that cause the disease get into building water supplies, they can pose a hazard to humans via air conditioners, showers, and hot tubs.
Medical experts say that Legionnaires’ disease is not communicable from person to person and can only be transmitted through contaminated water, usually by inhalation.
The charity Care4Calais, which supports migrants, said ministers must now realize that keeping refugees on barges was “unsustainable”.
Chief Executive Steve Smith said: “We have always known that our concerns about the health and safety of the barge were valid and this recent mismanagement proves our point.”
“The Bibby Stockholm is a visual example of this government’s hostile environment towards refugees, but it has also quickly become a symbol of the messy incompetence that has wrecked Britain’s asylum system.
“The government should now recognize that housing refugees in this way is utterly unsustainable and focus on the real task at hand – processing asylum claims quickly so that refugees can become the contributing members of our communities that they so desire to be .”