Asylum seekers will return to the Bibby Stockholm barge today more than two months after they were moved off due to Legionella bacteria.

Letters were sent to asylum seekers on October 9, notifying them that they would be moved back to the Bibby Stockholm at Portland Port from Thursday, October 19.

They have been staying in hotels in the south of England after residing on the barge for just four days in August.

Initially, it was believed the asylum seekers would be moved back to the barge "within days" in August, however, the vessel has now sat empty for 71 days.

Dorset Echo: The Bibby Stockholm was listed as temporarily closed on Google MapsThe Bibby Stockholm was listed as temporarily closed on Google Maps (Image: Google Maps)

The long departure even led to the barge being listed as "temporarily closed" on Google Maps.

The asylum seekers will be greeted by a welcome party at the port gates made up of members of Stand Up to Racism and Portland Global Friendship Group.

Dorset Echo: Residents and campaign groups welcoming the asylum seekers in AugustResidents and campaign groups welcoming the asylum seekers in August (Image: Tom Lawrence)

Along with flowers and welcome packs for each refugee containing toiletries and other essentials, the welcome party will give the arrivals a giant 'welcome' card with messages collected from local people - which people will add to as they arrive. 

Candy Udwin from Stand Up To Racism Dorset said those who will be staying on the barge 'deserve better'.

"We want to send a clear message of welcome to the refugees who after fleeing from persecution and war deserve better than what feels like a prison barge.

“The great support from local people has countered the division and hatred which was threatened in response to the barge.

"Now we are calling for the government to organise safe passage for refugees and to clear the asylum claim backlog, rather than spending a fortune on the barge, and stirring up hatred with talk about hurricanes and invasions," she said. 

Heather from the Portland Global Friendship Group said: “We will be showing solidarity to the men returning to the Bibby Stockholm.

"We will continue to support them and, as a community, make sure the refugees are welcomed back.

“Many local people have added messages to the welcome card we have made to show love and kindness to the refugees, which is a testament to the support and care that there is in the local community.”

The asylum seekers were removed from the barge on August 11 when legionella bacteria was found in the water system, and concerns over fire safety were reported. 

Legal challenges are ongoing including by the Fire Brigades Union and the Mayor of Portland, Carralyn Parkes, who has issued a further judicial review claim in the High Court challenging the decision by Dorset Council that it has no planning jurisdiction over the Bibby Stockholm.