Braverman silent on plans to house migrants in barge moored in Dorset

Jenrick announces new migrant housing in PM’s constituency

Home Secretary Suella Braverman this morning refused to be drawn on reports that the Government has already agreed a deal with the Portland Port Authority to establish the first migrant barge off Dorset’s Jurassic coast. The Sun on Sunday reports ministers will confirm the move this week, just days after the Sun first revealed plans to house illegal migrants on floating ships to slash the £6 million-a-day cost of hotel accommodation.

The reported agreement with the Portland Port Authority would see a floating ship housing illegal migrants right next the picturesque seaside town of Weymouth, a top 10 beach destination in Europe.

Questioned by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg on the story this morning, Home Secretary Suella Braverman refused to be drawn into details.

Laura Kuenssberg asked: “There are reports this am that a deal has been done to have a barge with the Portland Port Authority, so there would be a floating barge with migrants, is it true that that deal has been struck to site a barge in that part of the country?”

Mrs Braverman replied: “Forgive me, I’m not going to get into the details of private commercial negotiations”.

Notably, the Home Secretary did not deny the report.

When asked about the local Tory MP, Richard Drax, objecting to the Devon plan, Mrs Braverman once again refused to be drawn.

“I’m not going to confirm and I’m not going to preempt our private commercial discussions, you’ll have to wait a little bit longer.”

Earlier this week, Suella Braverman’s deputy at the Home Office, Robert Jenrick, announced plans for four defence bases to be used for migrant accommodation, including Wethersfield in Essex, RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, an RAF site-turned-prison in Bexhill, East Sussex, and the Catterick Garrison base in Rishi Sunak’s own North Yorkshire constituency.

Suella Braverman denied that the government needed to find 50,000 detention places ahead of what is expected to be a record year for small boat crossings, however noted the country does need to increase our detention estate.

“We’ve got several thousand places already that we use and we’ve got capacity there, we will need to increase some of our detention capacity, but what we believe to work is once we are able to relocate people from the UK to Rwanda – pursuant to our world-leading deal – that will have a significant deterrent effect, and people will stop making the journey in the first place.”

Despite refusing to comment on the specific plan for a migrant barge in Dorset, Mrs Braverman said the Government is “talking to a lot of operators, a lot of owners of lots of different kinds of property around the country”.

“We’ve announced sites earlier this week – those are sites where we have a level of confidence we’re able to be public about those sites – we’re aiming to roll out those sites very quickly and start making them fit for accommodation purposes and relocate people onto those sites for asylum purposes.”

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Local Dorset MP Richard Drax told The Sun on Sunday that locals are considering “all options” to thwart the plan, including a legal challenge.

He said: “We are a sensitive seaside town and this is entirely unsuitable.”

“We just don’t have the services. A key worry is that already we have had a problem with migrants and hotels – young people disappearing and sexual assaults. What on earth are we going to have on a boat?

“We are considering a legal challenge if they go ahead. We are looking at all options to stop this.”

Immediately after Robert Jenrick confirmed plans to house migrants in RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire, the local council announced legal action against the government, amid fears the move would cause “irretrievable damage” to a £300m regeneration programme at the site.

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