FIREFIGHTERS have called for an urgent meeting with the Home Secretary over the safety of a giant barge meant for asylum seekers amid a deepening row over whether it is a “deathtrap”.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has questioned a lack of exit points, the narrowness of corridors and increased occupancy on the Bibby Stockholm in a letter sent to Suella Braverman on Wednesday.

Originally built with 22 cabins, the barge is now expected to contain more than 500 people in Portland, Dorset.

The letter comes after Energy Secretary Grant Shapps (below) disputed claims made by the union that the barge was a “potential deathtrap”.

The National: Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Grant Shapps (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Plans to move people onto the barge have been beset by delays, with government sources suggesting the first arrivals may not be onboard until next week at the earliest.

The Guardian reports that the FBU’s assistant general secretary Ben Selby has written to Braverman expressing concerns about the barge.

He said: “We are concerned about the risks on a large floating structure used to accommodate asylum seekers in long-term housing and would expect the risk assessment to recommend substantial prevention and control measures to tackle overcrowding, access to fire exits and other safety matters on the vessel.

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“The FBU seeks an urgent meeting with you and your officials to discuss these matters. We have substantial expertise, including from earlier disasters such as the Grenfell Tower fire and the subsequent public inquiry. We are concerned above all to prevent another tragedy.”

Speaking to Sky News, Selby said the main concern was the number of people due to live on the barge, which had been adapted to include more bedrooms and bunkbeds.

“That then raises significant fire safety concerns for us, and also concerns that, if a fire was to break out on the Bibby, could firefighters make the adequate rescues and access where necessary?", he said.

In response to claims of the ship being a “deathtrap”, Shapps told Good Morning Britain: “This actual ship was previously used by Germany to house migrants, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t be absolutely safe.

“Ships are used to transport people all the time and there’s no inherent reason why that (not being safe) would be the case.

“That’s actually why these final safety checks are being carried out.”

In a separate development, a government insider told The Guardian that the union’s criticisms are part of a plan by Labour to keep asylum seekers in hotels.

The insider said: “Labour and its union backers are gleeful at the idea of housing migrants in hotels because it suits their political games.

“And that’s why they don’t want to stop the boats – because they’ve also calculated it’s to their gain.”

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In response, shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said: “Instead of getting a grip and clearing the backlog, all they offer is gimmicks and lashing out trying to blame everyone else.

“They’ve been in charge for 13 years – this is their chaos.”

Speaking to LBC on Tuesday, Rishi Sunak also rejected claims that the barge plan had been a shambles.

“This is an example of me doing something different that hasn’t been tried before to help solve a serious problem”, he said.

The first 50 migrants were expected to arrive on Tuesday but Home Office sources said late representation from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to check working practices for port staff delayed the plans rather than fire safety concerns.