A TORY minister’s comments on immigration have come back to haunt him as the Home Office faces mounting pressure over the removal of asylum seekers from the Bibby Stockholm barge.

Following the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water supply, the 39 people who had boarded the vessel were transferred to alternative accommodation.

The Home Office has confirmed that no migrants have fallen sick or developed Legionnaires’ disease, which is a serious type of pneumonia, and that they are all being provided with “appropriate advice and support”.

Warning from experts

Public health expert Professor Paul Hunter said the bacteria would have been an obvious risk to test for before people were moved onto the barge.

He said it was possible those on board could have been exposed to Legionella if they took a shower because this can generate a mist of the bacteria which can be inhaled, although the Home Office has said no one has fallen ill.

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He told BBC Radio 4: “Certainly if we… had had a (hospital) ward that had not been open for a number of weeks and the water still in the pipes, we would check that before we actually started moving patients into that ward, and this didn’t seem to happen. This is very concerning.”

Following the comments, a video has gone viral of Tory immigration minister Robert Jenrick telling Sky News: “We will always house people in decent, legally compliant accommodation.”

What has the Home Office said?

Speaking on Friday, a spokesperson for the Home Office said: “The health and welfare of asylum seekers remains of the utmost priority.

“The Home Office and our contractors are following all protocol and advice from Dorset Council’s Environmental Health team, UK Health Security Agency and Dorset NHS who we are working closely with.”

With a capacity of more than 500, the Government hopes that the use of the Bibby Stockholm will help cut the amount being spent on hotel bills for asylum seekers waiting on the outcome of their applications.

However, the policy has caused division within the Conservative Party with former Brexit secretary David Davis telling Radio 4: “The primary thing that’s been revealed has been the startling incompetence of the Home Office itself.

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“It’s really, really hard to understand how, at all layers, this could not be caught early.”

He suggested the problems could be related to “management” of the department rather than “ministerial” issues specifically but added: “Even working properly, the Bibby barge would only effectively take one day’s arrivals.

“So it’s not a solution to the problem and all of this is going to go on until the Home Office is able to process these arrivals more quickly.”