A coach was spotted outside a hotel in Exmouth on Thursday, (October 19), collecting the first migrants to arrive on the controversial Bibby Stockholm.

Pictures, seen by the Journal, which we have decided not to publish to protect the identities of the people on the bus, show migrants leaving a hotel in the town. They are believed to be the first people back on board the ship since it was evacuated on August.

The boat had to be emptied because traces of Legionella bacteria were found in the water supply.

The boat has been controversial because it has been used by the government as a way to accommodate asylum seekers coming to the UK on small boats.

Protesters against the use of the vessel, which they describe as “inhumane” and “like a prison”, gathered at the gates of Portland Port in Dorset as a coach carrying the group arrived on Thursday.

The coach carrying the asylum seekers had been stopped by Just Stop Oil protesters earlier on its approach to Portland in a “positive protest” in support of the campaign against the use of the barge.

Dorset Police confirmed that two people had been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage to the coach after they received a report that it had been damaged as it was stopped in the protest in Portland Beach Road.

A force spokeswoman said that a third person was also arrested on suspicion of criminal damage to a police vehicle.

Candy Udwin, of Stand Up To Racism Dorset, said after the coach entered the port: “It is a terrible way to treat people but we have sent a message today that they are welcome and this is not the way to treat refugees.”

She said she had been in contact with some of those who had been staying on the Bibby Stockholm, adding: “They hate it, they say it feels like a prison, some hate being on the sea, they find it very difficult to leave and they are completely separated from the community.”

A Home Office spokesman said that tests for the bacteria as well as improved fire safety protocols had been completed ahead of the return of the occupants to the barge.