Bibby Stockholm: 45 arrests as protesters block coach in bid to stop asylum seekers being moved to barge

Police have arrested 45 people after protesters blocked a coach that was due to take asylum seekers to the Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset.

A large group of demonstrators, many with their faces covered, surrounded the vehicle and linked arms near the Best Western Hotel in Peckham, southeast London, earlier in the day.

Several people sat down in the road in front of the coach, which had a flat tyre, and some demonstrators were removed by officers.

Police said they were called at around 8.40am to reports of people obstructing a coach, which was parked outside the hotel.

The Metropolitan Police said 45 people were arrested and taken into police custody for offences including obstruction of the highway, obstructing police and assault on police.

The coach, which was supposed to take seven asylum seekers to the barge, left the scene without them onboard.

Laurence Smith, from the charity Lewisham Donation Hub, said the asylum seekers were now being supported by the protesters at the organisation's base in Lewisham.

In footage from the scene in Peckham, protesters could be heard chanting "no borders, no nations, stop deportations".

Sky News correspondent Sadiya Chowdhury said the incident was "descending into utter chaos".

"Protesters surrounded that coach, they didn't let it leave. Eventually, when it did leave, it left empty," she said.

The Bibby Stockholm, moored at Portland in Dorset, has been used since last August as ministers sought to find alternatives to hotel accommodation for those waiting for decisions on their asylum applications.

But the vessel has been plagued with issues - including an outbreak of Legionella bacteria on board - and in December, police confirmed one of the people on board had died, with reports suggesting the man had taken his own life.

In February, MPs warned of "claustrophobic" conditions on board the vessel which could amount to a breach of asylum seekers' human rights.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said on Thursday: "Housing migrants in hotels costs the British taxpayer millions of pounds every day.

"We will not allow this small group of students, posing for social media, to deter us from doing what is right for the British public."

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In a statement posted on X, the Metropolitan Police said: "Police were called at around 8.40am to reports of a group of protesters near a hotel in Peckham Road SE15.

"There were reports that a coach had been obstructed by people and bicycles."

Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan said: "My officers were quickly on scene and have engaged with the protesters at length.

"My officers had warned the group that obstructing the highway, and obstructing police, are criminal offences and that they could be arrested."