Who broke the asylum system? Sir Keir clashes with Rishi at PMQs as he calls for PM to appoint a 'proper' home secretary

2 November 2022, 12:23 | Updated: 2 November 2022, 13:29

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir clashed over Britain's asylum system
Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir clashed over Britain's asylum system. Picture: ParliamentTV/Alamy

By Will Taylor

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer clashed over who broke Britain's asylum system as they debated the migrant crisis at Prime Minister's Questions.

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The Labour leader asked how the blame could lie at anyone's feet other than the Tories', with Conservatives having spent more than a decade in power.

"His home secretary says the asylum system is broken. Who broke it?" Sir Keir said at the start of Wednesday's debate.

Speaking after jeers, Mr Sunak said the Tories delivered Brexit and ended free movement of people.

"That's our record on migration policy – it’s not something the honourable gentleman supported, he opposed it at every turn," the PM claimed.

But Sir Keir fired back that the Tories had "lost control" of the borders.

"Four Prime Ministers in five years... if the asylum system is broken and his lot have been in power for 12 years, how can it be anyone's fault but theirs?" he said.

Read more: Children moved from Manston 'prison camp' go missing as ministers vow crackdown will send migrants home 'within days'

The PM defended his Government's record on immigration
The PM defended his Government's record on immigration. Picture: Alamy

The PM said: "Let's look at the record… [Sir Keir] voted against the nationality and borders bill, he said he would scrap the Rwanda partnership, he opposed the ending of free movement of people.

"Look, border control is a serious, complex issue, but not only does the party opposite not have a plan, they have opposed every single measure we have taken to solve the problem.

"You can't attack a plan if you don't have a plan."

But Sir Keir said Labour had opposed measures which did not work.

Britain's asylum system has been criticised by all sides after it emerged the Manston migrant centre in Dover was dangerously overcrowded.

It is buckling in the face of an influx of people crossing the Channel – some 40,000 are thought to have crossed this year.

Home secretary Suella Braverman controversially branded it an "invasion".

Read more: Migrant centre firebomber Andy Leak, 66, shared far-Right content online ‘and lost penis to cancer’

The conditions at Manston immigration centre have been criticised
The conditions at Manston immigration centre have been criticised. Picture: Alamy

In October, 6,912 people crossed, including 1,065 in a single day. That was the third highest monthly amount this year - behind August and September, leading to questions over whether the Government is clueless as to stop the crossings.

The stick of the Rwanda policy - held up by legal wrangling amid human rights fears - has not deterred crossings, while ministers are hoping to arrange a fast track deportation scheme for Albanians given how many men from the Balkan state are among the migrants.

Migrants are only meant to be held at Manston - which has been likened to a "prison camp" and a "zoo" - while officials carry out security and identity checks.

They are then meant to go into the asylum system, often ending up in a hotel paid for by taxpayers, while others will go to detention centres if the Government thinks they have grounds to have them deported.

The centre is meant to process more than 1,000 people every day and the Home Office claims that it has largely done so this year.

By October 31, Tory MP Roger Gale said he believed about 4,000 were there, leading to concerns about whether the facility was overwhelmed.

The Home Office did not comment on how many people are there.

It has also emerged that hundreds of children have gone missing from hotels after being processed at Manston.

The facility itself has also been criticised, with people held there understood to have caught scabies while others have had their phones and cigarettes confiscated and forced to sleep on the floor.

The former RAF base was initially designed to only hold up to 1,600 people for a maximum of 48 hours but it has become a temporary home to almost 4,000 migrants in recent weeks.

Two migrants claimed they were being treated more like "animals in a zoo" while another, who spent 24 days at Manston, compared it to a "prison camp".