Cabinet minister Oliver Dowden admits ‘totally deplorable’ Channel migrant crisis ‘has gone too far’
Cabinet minister Oliver Dowden today admitted the ‘totally deplorable’ Channel migrant crisis had ‘gone too far’ and the Government ‘need to do more’.
Around 40,000 people have arrived in Britain after crossing the Channel so far this year, with ministers under severe pressure to get a grip on the issue.
The Government is also faced heavy criticism for its handling of the asylum system, with the Manston processing centre in Kent having become hugely overcrowded.
Mr Dowden, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, this morning revealed the Government hoped to have the Manston facility back under capacity this week as more people are removed.
He also insisted Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was ‘totally committed’ to dealing with the wider crisis and had been having ‘meetings pretty much every day’ about the issue since entering No10.
But senior Labour MP Diana Johnson, the chair of the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee, accused the Government of having ‘taken its eye off the nitty gritty’ of the asylum system.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman this week admitted Britain’s asylum system is ‘broken’ and illegal migration is ‘out of control’ amid the small boats crisis in the Channel.
Mr Dowden, speaking to the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show, also acknowledged a ‘totally deplorable situation’.
‘It is unacceptable that we now have a situation… with almost 40,000 people crossing the Channel,’ he said.
‘It is dangerous for the people concerned. It enriches gangs. And it’s people going from one safe country, France, to another safe country, the UK.
‘That is exactly why the PM is totally committed to gripping this. I can tell you he has been having meetings pretty much every day since he became PM to bring forward proposals to address this.
‘Whether that’s in relation to preventing people coming across in the first place, deterring them and repatriating them and processing them.’
Cabinet minister Oliver Dowden today admitted the ‘totally deplorable’ Channel migrant crisis had ‘gone too far’ and the Government ‘need to do more’
Around 40,000 people have arrived in Britain after crossing the Channel so far this year, with ministers under severe pressure to get a grip on the issue
The Government is also faced heavy criticism for its handling of the asylum system, with the Manston processing centre in Kent having become hugely overcrowded
The migrant processing centre at Manston had more than 4,000 people staying there at one point last week, despite it only having a capacity of around 1,600.
It has seen Home Office officials engaged in a frantic search for alternative accommodation, such as hotel rooms, for asylum seekers in order to bring the numbers at Manston down.
Mr Dowden insisted the Government was ‘continuing to make good progress’ in removing people from the facility, but admitted it was still over-capacity.
He said: ‘The latest numbers I have is that there’s about 1,800, so we’re confident by next week we’ll be back within capacity. That situation is being dealt with.’
The Cabinet minister also admitted it was ‘legitimate’ for voters to expect the Government to get a grip on the crisis.
‘I do not dispute for a second that this situation has gone too far and why people are angry about it,’ Mr Dowden said.
‘You’ve seen efforts from the last Government to address this. Clearly we need to do more on this.
‘The PM is totally seized of this to make sure that we work through each aspect of this to make sure that we start to control these numbers. I am not saying this is going to be easy at all.
‘It would be challenging for any government and we’re not going to get some sort of panacea to it overnight but it is legitimate for people to expect us to grip this and we will.’
Mr Dowden revealed the Government hoped to have the Manston facility back under capacity this week as more people are removed
But Mr Dowden swerved giving an explicit commitment that the number of migrants crossing the Channel would fall.
‘Of course we need to make sure we bear down on those numbers and seek to see a reduction in those numbers,’ he added.
‘We can’t continue with that kind of rate of growth because actually the people that really pay the price of this are the legitimate refugees – whether that’s from Ukraine or Afghanistan – where we’re less able to accomodate them.’
Ms Johnson told the same programme that a report by her Home Affairs Select Committee this summer had been ‘very clear’ that the Government ‘had taken its eye off the nitty gritty, the day-to-day dealings with immigration’.
She said this included ‘having the right number of people dealing with asylum claims’, adding: ‘The Government said they were going to have 1,000 decision-makers by the end of last year – they missed that target.’