'There Isn’t A Barge, Is There?': Dominic Raab Left Squirming Over Latest Migrant Crackdown
Dominic Raab with home secretary Suella Braverman.
Dominic Raab was left squirming this morning as he struggled to explain how ministers plan to house asylum seekers on barges.
The government is considering the move as a way of slashing the £6 million-a-day cost of putting migrants up in hotels.
Both The Sun and The Times reported the move ahead of immigration minister Robert Jenrick updating MPs on the plans later today.
He is expected to confirm that people arriving in the UK through unauthorised means will be put up in sites including RAF Wethersfield in Essex and RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.
That is despite opposition from local MPs, including foreign secretary James Cleverly.
Appearing on Radio Four’s Today programme, Raab repeatedly avoided answering whether the government had even identified a barge that could be used to house migrants.
Presenter Justin Webb asked: “Is there a barge that you have either secured the use of or that you have in mind?”
Raab replied: “There are a whole range of options, from that to ex-army barracks.”
Webb then responded: “But is there a barge? Have you made an effort to find the accommodation on ships and barges? Are there ships and barges that you have in mind to use, or is this just something that is a vaguer intention?”
The deputy PM said: “The detail will be set out by the immigration minister today in the House of Commons, but what’s clear is we’re looking at all the potential options, whether it’s barges, whether it’s ex-army barracks and there are other forms of cheaper, low-cost accommodation.”
But Webb again pressed him on the detail, saying: “What your opponents say is you’re just thrashing around and doing so in the light of the fact that we’re about to have local elections and indeed a general election in a year or so.
“So there is a picture of a barge on the front of The Sun, which I assume you don’t mind, but when I ask you ‘is there a barge that the government has in mind’, there isn’t one.
“There isn’t a barge is there, it’s as simple as that?”
Raab replied: “The clear message is we are making progress on the small boats.”
A Home Office source told HuffPost UK that there “are” no barges and ferries - but failed to rule out the possibility of them being used in the future.
Braverman last year admitted that cruise ships could be used to house asylum seekers - an idea first floated by Rishi Sunak in last summer’s Tory leadership election.