Suella Braverman blames migrants who ‘abuse generosity of British people’ for crisis – as Home Affairs Committee hears 36 who crossed Channel by boat have been returned to Albania
- The Home Secretary said ‘people smugglers’ and economic migrants are at fault
- She later admitted to the committee that ‘we have failed to control our borders’
- Today refused to reveal legal advice she’d received about conditions at Manston
The Home Secretary today blamed economic migrants ‘who exploit the generosity of the British people’ for the Channel migration crisis – as it emerged just 36 Albanians detained by officials have been returned to Albania in recent weeks.
Suella Braverman said she did not want to ‘point the finger of blame’ at any particular home secretary for the overcrowding at Manston, a processing centre in Kent, and instead criticised people who cross the Channel in small boats.
‘I’m not going to point the finger of blame at any one person, it’s not as simple as that,’ she told the Commons Home Affairs Committee. Asked again, she said: ‘Listen, I don’t think it’s helpful to point the finger of fault at anyone.’
Pressed further, she countered: ‘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 exploit the generosity of the British people – that’s who’s at fault.’
She added ‘people smugglers’ and ‘people who are choosing to take an illegal and dangerous journey to come here for economic reasons’ are those at fault.
Suella Braverman said she did not want to ‘point the finger of blame’ at anyone in particular for the overcrowding at Manston, a processing centre in Kent, and instead criticised people who cross the Channel in small boats
Ms Braverman also admitted to the committee that ‘we have failed to control our borders’.
Tory MP Lee Anderson put it to her that: ‘We’re putting more (asylum seekers) 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.’
Previous figures showed more than 12,000 Albanians have arrived in the UK on small boats this year, 10,000 of whom were described as ‘young, adult men’.
Iraqi who died in Manston last week has still not been identified
The death of a man who had been held at the Manston migrants processing centre was not suspicious and he had received a ‘significant level of medical support’ while at the site, MPs heard.
Clandestine Channel threat commander Dan O’Mahoney told the Commons Home Affairs Committee: ‘The person involved had a significant level of medical support while he was staying at Manston and the circumstances around what happened are not suspicious in any way, so there is no police investigation ongoing.
‘Of course, we are very mindful of the people that he was with. As far as I understand it, we haven’t managed to contact his next of kin yet. So, a very tragic set of circumstances that we are continuing to handle very carefully.’
Mr Mahoney confirmed the man was at Manston for seven days, having arrived in the UK on November 12 before he died in hospital in the early hours of November 19.
But today, it emerged just 36 Albanians who arrived in small boats and were detained at Manston in recent weeks have been returned to their home country.
Manston in northern Kent is designed to hold 1,600 people for a legal maximum of 24 hours but earlier this month was holding around 4,000 as officials struggled to cope with record numbers of arrivals.
This led to a series of legal claims being lodged against the Home Office.
Today, Ms Braverman’s top civil servant confirmed she had been given legal advice over a potential breach of the law, but in a testy exchange with MPs, the minister declined to reveal what this advice was and exactly when she received it.
She 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 permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft said: ‘Home Office officials made the Home Secretary aware of the legal position as well as policy options from the beginning of her tenure.’
The pair were also ticked off for not knowing how many judicial reviews have been launched over Manston.
Commons Home Affairs Committee chairwoman Dame Diana Johnson said she had heard it is four.
Mr Rycroft said: ‘We know there are judicial reviews on Manston and we are dealing with them, as you expect, in a holistic way; I personally didn’t know there were four.’
Dame Diana replied: ‘I’m rather surprised you didn’t think I might ask that question.’
Ms Braverman later revealed the Home Office had received notice of five possible judicial reviews.
Migrants are brought ashore at Dungeness beach after being picked up by an RNLI crew
Manston is one of the main processing centres designed to hold migrants until more suitable accommodation can be found
Manston is now empty after everyone there was moved to hotels or accommodation.
Addressing MPs today, clandestine Channel threat commander Dan O’Mahoney said a backlash from local MPs and councils was partly to blame for earlier delays to move migrants out of the centre and into hotels.
Tough asylum cases ‘handled by inexperienced staff’
The UK’s asylum system is being undermined by inexperienced and low-paid staff being recruited to handle applications, insiders have claimed.
Nearly 130,000 people are waiting for a decision on their asylum claim, according to the latest figures released in June 2022.
Insiders said the use of new, junior staff to handle complex cases was delaying decisions and forcing officials to pay for long, expensive hotel stays.
One Home Office employee with several years of experience told Newsnight: ‘They’re hiring large numbers of inexperienced staff who need to be trained to do this and that takes time, so the backlog grows.
‘And it’s young staff facing these harrowing stories and earning low wages – so what’s the incentive to stay? There isn’t one… so they leave and then they hire someone else and so it continues.’
The Home Office said it had ‘increased asylum caseworkers by 80% to more than 1,000’ and added that ‘a successful pilot scheme to boost the number of claims processed is now being rolled out across the country’.
MPs also asked Ms Braverman and her colleagues about the stalled deal to send migrants to Rwanda, which has already seen Britain pay the country £140million.
Today, the Government department’s permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft admitted he was still unsure if the policy would be value for money.
It is more than seven months since former home secretary Priti Patel announced the deal in a bid to curb Channel crossings but the plan has been hampered by legal challenges.
Asked whether he thought the policy was value for money, Mr Rycroft told the Commons Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday: ‘I keep that judgment under constant review, as you would expect, and the circumstances have not changed sufficiently for me to change my judgment which, from April, was that we did not have evidence it would be value for money.
‘The UK has paid £120 million plus an additional £20 million for set-up costs to the government of Rwanda and it remains the case it could be value for money and it could not be.
‘I think it is worth underlining the purpose of the scheme is deterrence, is prevention. The success of the scheme will not be measured in how many thousands of people will be relocated to Rwanda but more by how many people do not make the dangerous crossing of the Channel.’
On April 14, Ms Patel signed what she described as a ‘world-first’ agreement with Rwanda for it to receive migrants deemed by the UK to have arrived ‘illegally’, and therefore inadmissible under new immigration rules.
But the first deportation flight, due to take off on June 14, was grounded amid legal challenges.
The legality of the policy has since been contested in the courts, with ministers and campaigners awaiting a ruling from High Court judges on the case.
Since the deal was announced, 36,858 people have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel, according to provisional Ministry of Defence figures.
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