He bibby stockholm, the barge that has reached the shores of England to house 500 illegal immigrants for 18 months, owes its name to a family with a history in the British shipping industry: the Bibbys. Today she is the owner of a large family business that offers maritime and infrastructure services in 16 countries in the world, this lineage was the owner of three “slave” ships that transported a total of 737 slaves between the 18th and 19th centuries, according to the Slave Trade database.
The million-dollar business, which billed £35.5 million (or 41 million euros) in 2021, it was founded in 1807 by John Bibby, a Lancashire boatman who began trading from the port of Liverpool, under the name Bibby Line Group. However, the ancestor’s involvement in maritime activities precedes that year. Before 1807 ―the same year that the United Kingdom abolished slavery―, the merchant had benefited from the triangular routes between Africa, Europe and America, in which he traded raw materials, manufactures and slaves.
Between 1805 and 1806, three ships in Bibby’s fleet transported a total of 737 Africans from their home continent to the Americas as slaves. The Harmonie retained in Angola to 250 peoplewhich were sent to British Guiana in 1805. A year later, the Sally sailed from Nigeria with another 250 destined for Barbados, and the Eagle did the same with 237 Cameroonians who arrived in Kingston (Jamaica) to be enslaved.
The Argentine journalist Bruno Sgarzini, who has released this information through a Tweethas considered “paradoxical” that, two centuries later, the Bibby family continues to profit from businesses consisting of transporting and housing people by force. A investigation of CorporateWatcha cooperative that digs into the shadows of British companies, has epitomized the operations of the Bibby empire in recent decades.
The direct descendants of the businessman inherited a shipping company with more than 18 vessels. During the First World Warthe Bibbys gave up their ships as hospital and transport ships of British marines; and two decades later, in 1939, the State requisitioned their entire fleet, which at that time consisted of eleven ships.
In 1976, the current one was built bibby stockholmwhich the company converted into an accommodation barge in 1992. Between 1994 and 1998, the ship was used to house homeless in Hamburg. The turn of the millennium confirmed the purpose of the vessel: in 2005, she was arranged as floating prison in Rotterdam.
In the Netherlands, the Bibby Stockholm was the scene of violence, sexual exploitation and unsanitary conditions for 220 people, including a Algerian who died on board in 2008 for a heart problem that was poorly treated.
This year, the company, chaired by the descendant Michael Bibbyhas leased the barge to the British Government for 18 months, and has expanded the vessel’s capacity to 500 people.
The residents of the boat three floors and more than 200 cabins will remain for the next 18 months in her. “Technically, the immigrants will be able to leave the barge. But they will be subject to a high degree of vigilance and cordoned off behind the fences of the port area. If they leave, they are expected to return before 11:00 p.m., and the exit will be controlled by the authorities,” explains the Corporate Watch report.
The operation aims to “put stop trespassing of immigrants to the UK,” according to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Hiring the Bibby Stockholm aims to make housing cheaper for illegal immigrants, that cost tol Government £6 million a day ―€6.8 million―. Sunak has also stated that the goal of the initiative is “prevent the UK from becoming a magnet” for those who take advantage of asylum procedures.
Although the prime minister has promised that “all accommodation will comply with our legal obligations”, Westminster’s move has drawn criticism. Suspected that the installation of the Bibby Stockholm entails human rights violations like those in the Netherlands, a total of 706 individuals and 91 organizations have sent a open letter to Suella Braverman, Minister of the Interior of the Sunak Government. They refer to the experience of the Netherlands.
[Atraca en Inglaterra una barcaza en la que Sunak encerrará a medio millar de inmigrantes ilegales]
“Housing people on a barge – which in our view amounts to a floating prison― is morally indefensible, and threatens to traumatise an already vulnerable group of people”, since, for many asylum seekers who have been forced to cross the sea to reach British shores, “the sea represents a space of much trauma“, denounces the statement.