UNITED KINGDOM: Charles Yeo Yao Hui, a lawyer, activist, and opposition politician from Singapore, is seeking alternative accommodation rather than being relocated to Bibby Stockholm barge. This decision is due to his physical and mental vulnerabilities.
Upon learning about the reported suicide on the Bibby Stockholm barge, which serves as controversial housing for asylum seekers under the UK government, Mr Yeo expressed ongoing fear of being transferred there.
During an interview with the British media outlet, The Guardian, the 33-year-old disclosed the trauma he experienced from a near-drowning incident.
“My UK doctor has written to the Home Office to say the barge is not a suitable place for me due to my Asperger’s, my back problem and my near drowning experience. ”
“When I got the letter telling me I was going to the barge I panicked. I would rather die on the street than go to the barge.”
Latest asylum seeker’s tragic death reignites controversy surrounding Bibby Stockholm barge
The Bibby Stockholm barge, currently docked in Portland, Dorset, has stirred controversy following another tragic incident involving an asylum seeker found dead on the vessel on Tuesday.
The individual was reported to have taken their own life, prompting British authorities to launch an investigation into the matter.
Initially leased by former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, the three-story vessel can house up to 500 men while they await the outcome of their asylum applications. The British Home Office has defended its use, citing cost-saving measures by avoiding expensive hotel accommodations for asylum seekers.
However, critics argue that rather than being suitable accommodation, the barge resembles more of a prison environment.
Yeo’s legal representative criticizes British Government’s treatment of vulnerable asylum seekers as impractical and inhumane
Charles Yeo, having sought asylum in the UK due to persecution and imprisonment in his home country, is recognized among the list of at-risk human rights activists and lawyers identified by various UN rapporteurs, defending individuals on death row.
His legal representative, Naga Kandiah from MTC Solicitors, has presented medical evidence to the Home Office, contending that Yeo’s physical and mental vulnerabilities make him unsuitable for accommodation on the barge.
Expressing dismay, Kandiah criticized the government’s implementation of what he considers impractical and inhumane measures targeting some of society’s most vulnerable individuals.
“Our client is medically unsuitable for confinement on a barge and has submitted compelling evidence to the Home Office in support of his claim.”
According to lawyers representing asylum seekers cited in The Guardian, individuals facing similar mental or physical health challenges are encountering similarly high barriers in asserting their unsuitability for placement on the Bibby Stockholm barge.
Charles Yeo voices concerns over safety and trauma
Mr Yeo, who is also the former chairman of Singapore’s Reform Party, told the Guardian on Tuesday (12 Dec): “After hearing about the reported suicide on the Bibby Stockholm barge earlier today I am very scared to go there. “
“I feel very traumatised after hearing about this death. I feel it’s unsafe to house asylum seekers on a barge like this one. It is very overcrowded and it is difficult for people who have survived torture to live together in these conditions.”
He further mentioned that the prospect of being transferred to the barge, particularly after his time in prison in Singapore, is significantly deteriorating his mental health.
In response, a British Home Office spokesperson reiterated their procedures, stating, “All asylum seekers are screened to protect vulnerable individuals and ensure they are placed in suitable accommodation. “
“They have access to health and social care services, including support for mental health, from point of arrival in the UK and will continue to while housed in asylum accommodation.
“It is longstanding government policy that we do not comment on individual cases.”
Charles Yeo seeks political asylum in the UK amid prosecution in Singapore
Mr Yeo was a part of the Reform Party (RP) candidates, including leader Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Andy Zhu Lai Cheng, Soh Guan Soon, and Noraini Yunus, who contested in Ang Mo Kio GRC during GE2020.
The PAP team, led by PM Lee Hsien Loong, Gan Thiam Poh, Darryl David, Nadia Ahmad Samdin, and Ng Ling Ling, secured the GRC seat with 71.91% of the votes.
On 12 January 2022, Mr Yeo was arrested, along with another person, over alleged criminal breach of trust and forgery concerning his law firm’s clients.
Subsequently, on 19 January, he was charged with wounding the religious feelings of the Christian community and harassing a policeman through social media posts.
Before these charges, he posted a series of Instagram Stories on his now-defunct account “toxicstatenarrativeinsg” between November 3, 2020, and January 11, 2021, targeting a police officer carrying out his duties.
He faces a total of six charges in Singapore, including uttering words to wound religious feelings, attempting to do so twice, and making abusive or threatening communications towards a public servant under the Protection from Harassment Act.
Following his charges, Yeo claimed to be “facing politically motivated persecution” aimed at imprisoning or exiling him.
In July 2022, the Court of Appeal ordered lawyer Charles Yeo to pay S$4,000 in personal costs to the Attorney-General.
The order came after Mr Yeo and the Malaysian non-profit organization Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) unsuccessfully challenged the death sentences of two drug traffickers.
He was granted permission by the court to travel from 27 to 30 July 2022 to Vietnam to meet a witness for work purposes.
On 31 July, he announced on Instagram his “painful” decision to seek political asylum in the UK.
He clarified that he didn’t choose to hide in a “backwater, far-removed, and lawless crime haven country” because an innocent person wouldn’t do so.
Instead, he opted for the UK to witness how the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) presented his case in what he perceived as an “impartial and non-PAP-controlled legal system.”
Singapore authorities later issued a warrant of arrest against him.
In November 2022, Mr Yeo appeared in a Singapore court hearing via a Zoom call and was convicted of contempt of court for scandalizing the judiciary.
This was about two Instagram stories he posted on 14 March 2022, where he expressed grievances regarding a dispute with fellow lawyer Joseph Chen.
The Attorney-General was granted permission by the High Court on 10 May to proceed with contempt proceedings against Mr Yeo, and relevant papers were served on him on 17 May.
The AG sought punishment for Yeo’s contempt, arguing that the Instagram stories undermined the integrity and impartiality of the Singapore courts.
The AG expressed concern that these actions posed a risk of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice in Singapore.
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