Sarah Dines was speaking to broadcasters about the ongoing migrant crisis, following reports that asylum seekers could board the repurposed barge Bibby Stockholm for temporary accommodation on Monday.
So host Mishal Husain kicked off the interview by asking Dines when the first asylum seekers would be boarding Bibby Stockholm – but the minister refused to offer any details “for operational reasons”.
The BBC had already reported claims that the first 50 asylum seekers will be boarding later on Monday by this point.
The Today programme host then asked if Ascension Island, a British overseas territory in the Atlantic Ocean, is being discussed in government as a potential alternative to Rwanda – but Dines sidestepped questions on that, too.
“You wouldn’t expect me to go through those discussions, they’re individual cases. But of course, we’re looking across the globe,” the minister replied.
Husain pushed her on whether the government was looking into a plan B outside of Rwanda, but the minister deflected, and said the “opposition are looking at no plan whatsoever”.
Labour’s shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock actually said on Sunday that his party would “deal with the mess we inherit” from the Tories and use barges to temporarily house asylum seekers, too.
Speaking to Dines, Husain hit back: “You don’t currently have a scheme involving another country that is up and running, and is working.”
She also asked if anyone has been detained under the new powers the government has under the Illegal Migration Act, which passed into law on July 20.
“We’re not going to do anything in a knee-jerk way,” Dines replied. “This is a planned move forward, in stark contrast to the opposition, what Keir Starmer thinks about this is pretty clear as mud, frankly.”
Husain persisted: “Just to go back to the powers that you have, is that a no – no-one has yet been detained under a law passed by parliament?”
“I don’t think it’s quite right to put it in those stark terms,” the minister said.
Dines, who worked as a lawyer before entering parliament, added that “we are deporting people”, and then pointed to the supposed “lefty lawyers” trying to stop legal deportations “at every stage”.
She then claimed: “We’ve had horrendous examples with people who the Labour Party have supported, not being deported and stopped, have gone to commit murder.”
This could have been a nod to a 2020 case, where Labour MPs backed a decision to appeal the deportation of an asylum seeker called Ernesto Elliott. He killed someone in a knife fight in the UK six months later.
Husain pushed on: “I don’t understand why it’s so difficult for you to use the powers which you sought and gained through the Illegal Migration Act?”
As the minister started to deflect again, Husain pushed: “Sorry – you have new powers to detain and move, has anyone been detained since that law was passed?”
“In relation to detention, these are complex issues you wouldn’t expect me to –”
“Sorry, I would expect you to answer whether you have used new power which have become the law,” Husain said firmly.
“With respect, what we’re doing is making sure we get the Rwanda policy up and running as soon as possible, and operationalised,” the minister replied.
Husain said: “What was the point of passing that law before you’ve got a viable place to remove people to?”
“It’s quite commonplace to have laws passed and for them to become operationalised over weeks and months,” Dines claimed. “And of course we have to make sure we have somewhere off-shore and lawful to do.
“So this is quite normal, I don’t want the listeners to think that somehow this is a law that’s been passed democratically and just ignored. That’s just not the case.”
But, it turns out listeners were still not that happy with her responses, judging from the comments on Twitter...