Migrants and asylum seekers to blame, says Suella Braverman as she admits govt has lost control of Britain's borders

23 November 2022, 16:45 | Updated: 24 November 2022, 01:20

Suella Braverman struggled to explain legal routes to the UK.
Suella Braverman struggled to explain legal routes to the UK. Picture: Parliament TV/Alamy

By James Hockaday

The Home Secretary has admitted the government has failed to control Britain's borders as she was grilled by a committee of MPs.

Suella Braverman said "people smugglers" and “people who are choosing to take an illegal and dangerous journey to come here for economic reasons” were to blame for the dangerous overcrowding of the Manston Asylum Centre.

The holding facility in Ramsgate, Kent is now completely empty after it was filled well beyond capacity, leading to an outbreak of diseases among detainees.

It comes after the law changed in June, criminalising the people who make the dangerous journey across the English Channel in small dinghies, even if they are claiming asylum.

The idea is to break the business model of people smugglers by encouraging asylum seekers to take legal routes to Britain instead.

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Suella Braverman visits Dover
Around 42,000 people have made the dangerous Channel crossing so far this year. Picture: Getty Images. Picture: Getty

But when asked by the Commons Home Affairs Committee, Ms Braverman struggled to explain the legal routes people fleeing war and persecution could use.

She initially said she didn't want to "point the finger of fault" at anyone, but when pressed by MPs, Ms Braverman said: “I tell you who’s at fault. It’s very clear who’s at fault.

"It’s the people who are breaking our rules, coming here illegally, exploiting vulnerable people and trying to reduce the generosity of the British people. That’s who’s at fault.”

At its peak earlier this month, 4,000 people were being held at Manston – more than double its 1,600 capacity – a state branded a “breach of humane conditions”.

The Home Office has now been threatened with five legal cases over the site, but no judicial review claims have been issued as yet.

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Manston, a former military airfield, is now empty following dangerous overcrowding. Picture: Getty . Picture: Getty

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Tory MP Lee Anderson told Ms Braverman more asylum seekers are being housed in hotels because “the Home Office has failed to control our borders and it’s not fit for purpose at the moment”.

She replied: “We have failed to control our borders, yes. That’s why the Prime Minister and myself are absolutely determined to fix this problem.”

In the wide-ranging session, MPs also said there are a “shortage of safe and legal routes” to claim asylum in the UK, after Ms Braverman struggled to explain how a 16-year-old orphan escaping an African warzone and religious persecution to join their sibling in the UK would do so without being deemed to have arrived in the country “illegally”.

Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft confirmed Britain has now paid Rwanda £140 million for a stalled scheme to deport asylum seekers deemed to have taken illegal routes.

Ms Braverman is still fighting to revive the plan, which was halted by the European Court of Human Rights, but Mr Rycroft said he is unsure if the plan represents value for money.

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The Home Secretary was given legal advice over a potential law breach by holding people at Manston, a former military airfield, when she was first appointed to her role, MPs were told.

During a testy exchange, in her first session with the committee, she declined to say directly when she received the advice but said she arrived in the department in September “in full awareness” of the crisis.

Ms Braverman said she “was aware from the beginning of my tenure there was a problem in Manston” but cited a “Government convention” on not discussing legal advice.

“Home Office officials made the Home Secretary aware of the legal position as well as policy options from the beginning of her tenure,” Mr Rycroft said.

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