Migrants on Thursday began returning to an accommodation barge docked on the southwest English coast after it was evacuated two months ago over contaminated water supply fears.

A coach carrying migrants was seen arriving at Portland Port where the "Bibby Stockholm" vessel is moored.

The UK government's decision to house migrants on the barge is its latest controversial immigration policy.

The first migrants to be housed at the site arrived in early August but all 39 were evacuated days later following the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water supply.

Around 30 protesters on Thursday gathered at the gates to Portland Port holding banners reading "Scrap the prison barge! Refugees welcome".

"I think the barge is a horrible idea, it feels very oppressive, it feels like a prison," said one protester who gave her name as Annika, of the Portland Global Friendship Group.

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

The barge is intended to house up to 500 young male migrants.

But rights advocates have hit out at the policy, saying the vessel is unfit for the purpose.

The UK government is currently awaiting a court ruling on the legality of another of its immigration policies which would see failed asylum seekers deported to Rwanda.

Britain is currently seeing record numbers of migrants arriving by small boat from France on its south coast.

Over 26,000 people have arrived so far in 2023 with more than 110,000 migrants having made the sea crossing since Britain began publicly recording the arrivals in 2018.