Suella Braverman claims Britain’s asylum system is ‘broken’ and illegal migration ‘out of control’


Suella Braverman tonight claimed Britain’s asylum system is ‘broken’ and illegal migration is ‘out of control’ amid an ‘invasion’ on the South Coast.

The Home Secretary delivered a stark assessment to the House of Commons of her department’s failings as she battles to save her job.

Mrs Braverman is fighting for survival on two fronts as she faces a row about overcrowding at the Manston migrant processing centre in Kent.

She is also contending with a continuing controversy over security breaches following her use of a personal email address to send official documents.

The Home Secretary initially resigned over that row but was reappointed just six days later by new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

He has seen criticism of his rehiring of Mrs Braverman – as well as a focus on her record at the Home Office – overshadow his first few days in No10.

Mrs Braverman tonight suggested she was the victim of a ‘political witch-hunt’ as she attempts to survive the double scandal. 

More than 4,000 people are claimed to be on the Manston site, which is designed to accommodate only 1,600, with concerns the ‘inhumane’ conditions are leading to a risk of fire, disorder and infection.

Mrs Braverman tonight cautioned MPs against using ‘inflammatory language’ in relation to the severity of the situation at Manston, although she admitted it was ‘indisputably concerning’.

But the Home Secretary attracted condemnation for her own comments when she referred to the Channel migrant crisis as an ‘invasion’.

Furious MPs accused her of ‘inflaming hate’ and highlighted how her remarks came just a day after petrol bombs were thrown at another Home Office facility in Kent.

Mrs Braverman began a statement to the Commons tonight by providing an update on the ‘shocking’ incident at Dover’s Western Jet Foil yesterday.

She told MPs that ‘two to three incendiary devices’ were thrown at a Border Force immigration centre.

‘The suspect was identified, quickly located at a nearby petrol station and confirmed dead,’ she said.

‘The Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit attended to ensure there were no further threats. Kent Police are not currently treating this as a terrorist incident.’

The embattled Home Secretary also gave her wider assessment of the Channel migrant crisis, which has seen 40,000 people arrive on the South Coast already this year. 

‘We need to be straight with the public. The system is broken. Illegal migration is out of control,’ Mrs Braverman told MPs.

She suggested only the Tories were ‘serious about stopping the invasion on our southern coast’.

‘Some 40,000 people have arrived on the South Coast this year alone,’ the Home Secretay added.

‘Many of them facilitated by criminal gangs, some of them actual members of criminal gangs. So let’s stop pretending that they are all refugees in distress. The whole country knows that is not true.’

The Home Secretary Suella Braverman delivered a stark assessment to the House of Commons of her department's failings as she battles to save her job

The Home Secretary Suella Braverman delivered a stark assessment to the House of Commons of her department’s failings as she battles to save her job

Aerial photos show large tents that have been set up at Manston, a migrant processing centre in Kent that is said to be heavily overcrowded

Aerial photos show large tents that have been set up at Manston, a migrant processing centre in Kent that is said to be heavily overcrowded

Migrants and staff could be seen milling around in the field outside the large tents

Migrants and staff could be seen milling around in the field outside the large tents 

More than 4,000 people are claimed to be on the Manston site, which is designed to accommodate only 1,600, with concerns the 'inhumane' conditions are leading to a risk of fire, disorder and infection

 More than 4,000 people are claimed to be on the Manston site, which is designed to accommodate only 1,600, with concerns the ‘inhumane’ conditions are leading to a risk of fire, disorder and infection

A man walks near a shower area inside the processing centre in Manston, Kent

A man walks near a shower area inside the processing centre in Manston, Kent 

A woman waves at the camera from behind a green tarpaulin covering a wire fence at a migrant processing centre in Manston, Kent

A woman waves at the camera from behind a green tarpaulin covering a wire fence at a migrant processing centre in Manston, Kent 

A man holds up a baby inside an immigration processing centre in Manston, where conditions have been criticised by MPs

A man holds up a baby inside an immigration processing centre in Manston, where conditions have been criticised by MPs 

Mrs Braverman’s reference to an ‘invasion’ on England’s southern coast was swiftly condemned by opposition MPs.

‘Disgusted’ Labour MP Zarah Sultana accused the Home Secretary of using language that ‘whips up hate and spreads division’.

Fellow Labour backbencher Kim Johnson posted on Twitter: ‘The Government needs to stop inflaming hate.’

Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, the party’s home affairs spokesperson, said: ‘If the asylum system is broken it is because the Conservatives have broken it.

‘This scandal-ridden Home Secretary has no credibility left. These refugees are not an invasion, they are people who want to build a life for themselves and their families, contribute to our society and our economy, and support themselves instead of relying on handouts.’

The Home Secretary has come under pressure over the situation at Manston following reports she failed to act on legal advice that migrants were being detained for unlawfully long periods at the site.

She was also alleged to have blocked the transfer of thousands of migrants to hotels this summer, which was claimed to have directly led to overcrowding and outbreaks of scabies and diptheria.

In her statement to the Commons, Mrs Braverman denied blocking migrants from staying in hotels and insisted she had ‘never ignored legal advice’ in relation to accommodation for asylum seekers.

‘To be clear, like the majority of the British people I am very concerned about hotels but I have never blocked their usage,’ the Home Secretary said.

‘Indeed since I took over 12,000 people have arrived, 9,500 people have been transferred out of Manston or Western Jet Foil, many of them into hotels.

‘And I have never ignored legal advice, as a former attorney general I know the importance of taking legal advice into account.’

Mrs Braverman outlined how it costs taxpayers £6.8million a day to fund hotel accommodation for migrants and asylum seekers.

‘Let me set out to the House the situation that I found when I arrived as Home Secretary in September at the Home Office,’ she said.

‘I was appalled to learn there were over 35,000 migrants staying in hotel accommodation around the country at exorbitant cost to the taxpayer.

‘I instigated an urgent review. I pushed officials to identify accommodation options which would be more cost-effective and delivered swiftly while meeting our legal obligations to migrants.’

Migrants who have crossed the Channel in small boats arrive at the Dover centre before being taken to the Manston facility for processing

Migrants who have crossed the Channel in small boats arrive at the Dover centre before being taken to the Manston facility for processing

Migrants picutred at the Western Jet Foil processing centre in Dover on Sunday

Migrants picutred at the Western Jet Foil processing centre in Dover on Sunday

Mrs Braverman faced a grilling from her own Tory benches amid the ‘crisis’ at Manston.

Veteran Conservative backbencher Sir Roger Gale, the MP for North Thanet – the Kent constituency where the Manston site is located, claimed the facility had been operating ‘absolutely magnificently’ and ‘very efficiently’ until five weeks ago.

‘I’m afraid the Home Secretary took the policy decision not to commission further accommodation and it is that, that has led to the crisis at Manston,’ he said.

Sir Roger urged Mrs Braverman to offer assurances that the Manston processing facility won’t become ‘a permanent refugee camp’.

The Home Secretary replied: ‘On no occasion have I blocked the procurement of hotels or alternative accommodation to ease the pressure on Manston, I’m afraid that simply isn’t true.’

Labour’s Rachel Maskell said conditions at Manston were ‘clearly unsafe and inhumane’.

‘We know obviously the suffering that people have experienced there, after 12 years of shameful watch of this Government,’ she added.

In her reply, Mrs Braverman urged MPs not to ‘create alarm unnecessarily’, adding: ‘So when she talks about the language that she uses, I do gently urge her not to use inflammatory language.’

As the Home Secretary vowed to crack down on the Channel migrant crisis – including by pushing ahead with a scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda – she issued a warning to those making perilous journeys to Britain from mainland Europe on small boats.

‘People coming here illegally from safe countries are not welcome and should not expect to stay,’ she said.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper quizzed Mrs Braverman over whether she had been warned she was ‘acting outside the law’ by failing to provide alternative accommodation for those at Manston.

She claimed ignoring legal advice would have seen the Home Secretary breach the ministerial code – something Mrs Braverman has already admitted to in her use of a private email address to send official documents. 

Ms Cooper asked: ‘Given that it’s been less than a week since she was reappointed and less than a fortnight since she was first forced to resign for breaching the ministerial code.

‘And every day since her reappointment there have been more stories about possible security or ministerial code breaches.

‘How is anybody supposed to have confidence in her given the serious responsibilities of the Home Secretary to stand up for our national security, for security standards and for public safety?’

In response, Mrs Braverman reiterated that she had made ‘an error of judgement’ in her use of a private email address and had ‘apologised for that error’.

‘I took responsibility for it and I resigned,’ she added.

Earlier today, the Home Secretary had attempted to draw a line under the row over how she handled official documents by penning a letter to the Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee.

Prior to her reapppointment by Mr Sunak, she had been forced to resign earlier this month after it was revealed she emailed Cabinet papers to her private Gmail account and then on to senior Tory backbencher Sir John Hayes as well as, mistakenly, an assistant to another Conservative MP.

In her letter to the committee today, Mrs Braverman disclosed that a review by officials had identified six more occasions when she forwarded documents to her personal email.

However, Ms Braverman argued that none of the material had been secret or damaging, and her actions had been ‘reasonable’. 

She wrote: ‘The review also identified that within the period between 6th September and 19th October, I had sent official documents from my Government email to my personal email address on six occasions… 

‘The review confirmed that all of these occasions occurred in circumstances when I was conducting Home Office meetings virtually or related to public lines to take in interviews.’ 

She added that when Mr Sunak brought her back she gave him assurances she will not use personal IT for government business again.

‘I hold myself as Home Secretary to the highest possible standards and I am glad to be able to serve again,’ Ms Braverman said. 

‘I am grateful to the Prime Minister for his ongoing confidence following my reappointment.’

Mrs Braverman was put under fresh pressure over the Channel migrant crisis and security breaches today

Mrs Braverman was put under fresh pressure over the Channel migrant crisis and security breaches today

In a letter to MPs, the Home Secretary revealed she had sent more official documents to her personal email address

In a letter to MPs, the Home Secretary revealed she had sent more official documents to her personal email address

The latest details emerged amid a wider government security row, after news that Ms Truss’s mobile phone was hacked by suspected Russian spies when she was Foreign Secretary. 

Discussing the six occasions when she sent documents to her private email, Ms Braverman said: ‘As I was joining the Home Office meetings virtually and occasionally while in transit – via MS Teams and where I would be looking into the camera and visible on screen – on my Government-issued phone, I was therefore of course unable to simultaneously read the necessary official documents on the same screen of the same mobile device. 

‘It was not possible to use a single device to conduct the meetings and read the documents at the same time. 

‘Therefore, I had occasionally and exceptionally emailed them to my personal email account so that I could read the documents in order to conduct essential Government business. 

‘In all of these incidents, it was more practicable to use my personal phone to read the documents and was within permitted use; such use of my personal IT was reasonable and carried out in the public interest in order to enable me to do my job. 

‘None of the documents in question concerned national security, intelligence agency or cyber security matters and did not pose any risk to national security. None of the documents were classified as SECRET or TOP SECRET. 

‘I only used my personal email in instances where I judged it reasonable, given the circumstances. In accordance with the Guidance, as noted above, it was not reasonably possible to act otherwise. 

‘I have discussed those instances with my Permanent Secretary and he acknowledges and accepts my explanations. 

‘The review also confirmed that I had never used my Government email to send any information to external recipients outside of Government. Other than 19th October, I have not used my personal email account to send official Home Office documents to other people outside of government. 

‘There is no other person who has access to my personal email account.’

Spelling out the promises she had made to the PM, Ms Braverman said: ‘In my appointment discussion with the new Prime Minister, I assured him that I would no longer use personal IT for Government business. 

‘I have requested briefing and guidance by security experts on what constitutes appropriate use of Government and personal IT. I have now received this briefing. 

‘This fulsome and detailed security briefing by officials was supplementary to the briefing by officials when I was first appointed as Home Secretary at the beginning of September. My Ministerial team and those who work with me closely will all receive the same training.’ 

This morning, Sir Roger referred to decisions over the Manston facility as a ‘car crash’.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘There are simply far too many people and this situation should never have been allowed to develop, and I’m not sure that it hasn’t almost been developed deliberately.’

The Tory MP said he understood that a decision was taken not to book additional hotel space.

‘That’s like driving a car down a motorway, seeing the motorway clear ahead, then there’s a car crash, and then suddenly there’s a five mile tailback,’ he said.

‘The car crash was the decision not to book more hotel space.’

Sources close to Mrs Braverman’s predecessor, Priti Patel, today distanced themselves from the problems at Manston and argued overcrowding was not as bad before.

‘Priti was signing off hotels in the summer – despite how unpalatable it was politically – because it’s the right thing to do,’ one source said.

Downing Street defended the Government’s management of the asylum system.

Asked when Mr Sunak was going to get a grip on the situation in the Channel, the PM’s official spokesman said: ‘I think all ministers involved have been clear that this is a very difficult, longstanding problem.

‘We do have a package of measures, everything from the Rwanda deal down to what we are doing stopping around 28,000 crossings with French colleagues, and changing the laws to make it easier to crack down on the criminal gangs that are exploiting people.

‘There is no silver bullet to this. We do want to proceed with the Rwanda policy, which we believe will have a significant deterrent effect. But there is a great deal of work that needs to be done across the board before we make further progress.’



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