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Suella Braverman 'refused hotel bookings for migrants because they were in Tory areas'
1 November 2022, 07:27 | Updated: 1 November 2022, 09:53
The Home Secretary allegedly refused to sign off on hotel bookings for migrants, which would have eased pressure on the Manston processing centre, because “they were in Tory voting areas”.
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A senior government source told LBC Suella Braverman was presented with options for locations to move asylum seekers from the overcrowded site in Kent, where conditions are said to be “wretched”, but wouldn’t approve those in Conservative seats.
It’s claimed three hotels were approved last week which are in Labour constituencies, although the source would not confirm where these are.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick denied the claims.
Priti Patel is also accused of adopting the same approach when she was Home Secretary and is said to have refused to sign off bookings for the same reason over the summer.
The Home Office source told LBC Ms Patel “kept telling officials over the summer she wanted migrants out of hotels, but there is nowhere else for them to go.
"She refused to sign off on them and the reason is because they were in Tory voting areas."
More than 4,000 migrants are currently at Manston, including children, despite the official capacity being 1,500.
But the source said the system on the site, which is around 20 miles from Dover, “starts to collapse at 400” people.
Prison Officers Association assistant general secretary Andy Baxter told LBC that four marquees originally formed the short term holding facility, and each were designed to process 150 people.
He said “the point it probably started to struggle” was when migrant numbers on the site reached more than 600. LBC understands there are now seven processing tents.
Mr Baxter, whose union represents 160 staff members at Manston, said they need “urgent assurances” they are not breaking the law and will not face personal liability because people are being “illegally detained”.
'Are migrants being detained at camps rather than being moved to hotel
Meanwhile, speaking on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Mr Jenrick said: "The people who live in Kent have faced a huge burden as a result of illegal migration - not just this year but over many, many years.
"I have huge sympathy for them and their local councils and the work they've had to do on behalf of the whole country.
"We are working to try to disperse individuals across the whole of the United Kingdom so this burden is fair – there's no politics in that - it's simply a matter of practicality."
Liberal Democrat Cabinet Office spokesperson Christine Jardine MP said: "If this is true, it's yet another example of the Conservatives putting their party;s interests ahead of the national interest and the rule of law.
"Suella Braverman has yet more serious questions to answer about her conduct as Home Secretary.
"Now more than ever there must be a Cabinet Office inquiry, this is the final straw."
The Times reported that Home Secretary Suella Braverman was told at least three weeks ago that migrant families, including children, were being held at Manston for four weeks, which would put the government in breach of the law.
A government source told LBC the Home Office “will be ignorant and claim they didn’t know this was happening, but of course they are aware, they will have known since the summer.
“It’s been getting worse and worse. There are more and more arrivals, for which there is no solution.”
It’s also claimed the government will be forced to “pay a premium” for hotel bookings because of a lack of firms “willing to accept them”.
It’s estimated housing asylum seekers in hotels is already costing the government £6.8M per day.
Would you welcome migrant hotels in your constituency?
Addressing the allegations that she ignored legal advice urging the government to book hotel rooms for migrants, Ms Braverman insisted it was untrue.
She told the Commons on Monday since she took over as Home Secretary “9,500 people have been transferred out of Manston or Western Jet Foil, the initial screening centre at Dover, many of them into hotels, and I've never ignored legal advice.”
She told MPs “As a former Attorney General, I know the importance of taking legal advice in to account at every point and we will work hard to find alternative accommodation to relieve the pressure”.
Braverman told MPs that the government had reached deals with 30 hotels since 6 September, creating 4,500 additional hotel bed spaces for migrants.
A Home Office spokesperson also denied that legal advice was ignored. They told LBC: “The Home Secretary has taken urgent decisions to alleviate issues at Manston and source alternative accommodation. Claims advice was deliberately ignored are completely untrue.
“It is right we look at all available options so decisions can be made based on the latest operational and legal advice.
“The number of people arriving in the UK via small boats has reached record levels, which has put our asylum system under incredible pressure and costs the British taxpayer millions of pounds a day.”