Suella Braverman claims Britain's asylum system is 'broken'10/31/2022
Suella Braverman claims Britain’s asylum system is ‘broken’ and illegal migration ‘out of control’ amid South Coast ‘invasion’ – as Home Secretary battles to save her job in row over Manston processing centre
- Suella Braverman fighting criticism on security breaches and Channel migrants
- Tory MP swiped at ‘deliberate’ policy of not booking hotels to ease Kent pressure
- Mrs Braverman facing demands to explain use of personal email
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 linked to her use of personal email to send official documents.
Appearing before MPs, Mrs Braverman updated the Commons on the ‘shocking’ incident at a Border Force imigration centre in Dover yesterday, when ‘two to three incendiary devices’ were thrown at the premises.
A day after that attack, the Home Secretary gave her wider assessment of the Channel migrants 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 also suggested only the Tories were ‘serious about stopping the invasion on our southern coast’.
The Home Secretary was accused of ‘inflaming hate’ with her comments, in the wake of the Dover attack.
Mrs Braverman later cautioned MPs against using ‘inflammatory language’ in relation to the situation at Manston, although she admitted it was ‘indisputably concerning’.
She had earlier denied blocking migrants from staying in hotels and insisted she had ‘never ignored legal advice’ in relation to accommodation for asylum seekers.
Suella Braverman hit back in a row over the Manston migrant processing centre in Kent, where there have been reports of overcrowding and outbreaks of disease
A senior Tory has suggested the Home Secretary actively decided not to book more hotel space to stop arrivals staying at the Manston reception centre too long.
Former civil servants pointed out that if Mrs Braverman had done so it could be a breach of the ministerial code, potentially a resigning matter.
But, in a statement to the House of Commons tonight, the Home Secretary told MPs: ‘To be clear, like the majority of the British people, I am very concerned about hotels – but I have never blocked their usage.’
She added: ‘I have never ignored legal advice.’
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 out legal obligations to migrants.’
As she vowed to crackdown on the Channel migrants crisis, the Home Secretary also issued a warning to those travelling 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.
Mrs Braverman is fighting for survival on two fronts after today admitting sending more official documents to her private email – as well as dealing with the row over the Channel migrant chaos.
In a letter to MPs this morning, the Home Secretary insisted she had taken responsibility for sending sensitive information to a backbench ally, by apologising and resigning when Liz Truss was premier.
She also 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’.
Meanwhile, she is also in the spotlight over conditions at the Manston migrant processing centre, after reports of overcrowding and outbreaks of disease.
Veteran MP Roger Gale, who represents North Thanet, suggested the Home Office actively decided not to book more hotel space to stop arrivals staying at the reception centre too long.
Former civil servants pointed out that if Ms Braverman had done so it could be a breach of the ministerial code, potentially a resigning matter.
But sources close to the Cabinet minister said the idea she ignored legal advice was ‘categorically untrue’.
In her letter to the Home Affairs Committee today, Ms Braverman said: ‘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.’
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.
Suella Braverman is under fresh pressure over the Channel migrant crisis and security breaches today
In a letter to MPs, Ms Braverman revealed she had sent more official documents to her personal email address
Mark Spencer jokes that a ‘little man in China’ is listening to his chats with wife amid security row over hacking of Liz Truss’s phone
A minister joked there might be ‘some little man in China listening to me and my wife’ today after it emerged Liz Truss’s phone had been hacked.
Mark Spencer said all ministers used personal phones but stressed he was ‘careful’ and never discussed government business.
The comments came after extraordinary revelations in the Mail on Sunday that the former prime minister’s personal mobile phone was hacked by agents suspected of working for the Kremlin.
Cyber-spies are believed to have gained access to top-secret exchanges with key international partners when she was Foreign Secretary, as well as private conversations with close ally Kwasi Kwarteng.
One source told the newspaper the phone was so heavily compromised that it has now been placed in a locked safe inside a secure Government location.
Boris Johnson is said to have been informed when he was premier, but a news blackout was put in place to minimise damage.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman is also embroiled in a separate row about use of her private email account to circulate sensitive government information.
A Whitehall source said all ministers involved in national security would be expected to attend fresh training with the security services this week ‘to ensure everyone is aware how this material should be handled’.
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.’
As the Channel crisis threatens to spiral. there are claims that officials are now looking at booking individual rooms for migrants to ease the pressure, rather than blocking out whole hotels.
Others MPs have criticised France for failing to stop small boats attempting the crossing, while an ex-borders chief suggested mooring a cruise ship in the middle of the Channel where people can be accommodated.
Concern has been growing over the conditions in migrants are being held in while waiting to be processed once they arrive in the UK, and after one of the sites in Dover was firebombed over the weekend.
So far this year, close to 40,000 people have made the treacherous journey from France, crossing the world’s busiest shipping lanes in dinghies and other small boats, provisional Government figures show.
Sir Roger 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.’
He said he believes it was a decision taken by the Home Secretary, but is not sure whether it was Priti Patel or Suella Braverman.
Sources close to Ms Patel distanced themselves from the problems, arguing that 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 rejected Sir Roger’s criticism, saying the government was determined to ‘fulfil our legal duty’.
Asked when Mr Sunak was going to get a grip on the situation, the 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.’
The spokesman said: ‘I think obviously there is significant pressure being placed on accommodation facilities with the high number of crossings we are seeing and it remains a significant challenge to provide the right sort of accommodation, and also indeed to fulfil our legal duty to ensure people are not made destitute.
‘There is a large amount of work being done by the Home Office to secure further accommodation as we speak.’
Natalie Elphicke, the Conservative MP for Dover, said Ms Braverman had ‘passion’ but that needed to be ‘translated into actions’, and complained that was being blocked by a ‘rag bag of people who seem to want open borders’.
‘I’ve had many conversations with the Home Secretary about this issue, as you would expect, and I don’t think anyone doubts her passion and determination to tackle this issue,’ she told TalkTV.
‘As we’ve seen before it is a case of actually translating that into actions that will be put into effect and make a difference on the ground.
‘In the most immediate term that does mean stopping the boats leaving France. There are obviously a whole range of other measures, but at the moment a number of those are held up in the courts, a number of those are subject to more legal changes to go through Parliament, so all efforts have to go on stopping those boats and tackling the issue head on.’
Asked why the Government has not got to grips with the issue of Channel crossings, Ms Elphicke said: ‘The small boats crisis is clearly out of control and an entirely fresh approach is now needed.
‘What’s been happening is simply not working, because every single attempt to get on top of this is delayed or thwarted by a rag bag of people who seem to want open borders and don’t seem to want us to get a grip on this particular situation.
‘We’ve seen people object to absolutely everything, object to the new laws coming through, object to any agreements put in place, object to all of the efforts of the Government to try and tackle this issue. That’s really not on because it puts peoples’ lives at risk crossing the Channel, and it also results in this uncontrolled amount of people arriving.’
Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor said that in a forthcoming report he makes clear the Home Office and contractors ‘need to get a grip’ of the crisis, telling the Today programme: ‘They need to speed up the processing of migrants, they need to make suitable provisions so people can be moved off site as quickly as possible and housed in humane and decent conditions.
‘The facilities are not set up for people to be staying. It’s not a residential facility. It’s a short-term holding facility which is supposed to process people through.
Mark Spencer said all ministers used ‘personal’ phones but stressed he was ‘careful’ and never discussed government business
A group thought to be Channel migrants being brought ashore in Dover last week
‘So, the danger is, if people are spending long periods of time in what are very cramped conditions without suitable accommodation, that’s just not acceptable.’
Mr Jenrick visited Manston on Sunday after another watchdog, Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration David Neal, told MPs he was left ‘speechless’ by the problems at the site.
In a post on Twitter, Mr Jenrick said migrants continue to be processed ‘securely’ in ‘challenging conditions’, adding: ‘I was hugely impressed by the staff I met, managing this intolerable situation.’
Kevin Saunders, former chief immigration officer for the UK Border Force, said the system is ‘broken’ and that he would put asylum seekers on a cruise liner.
‘I would put a cruise liner in the middle of the Channel and put all asylum seekers on that, put it in international waters so they can’t claim asylum, because it’s not the UK,’ he told the BBC.
‘This has been mooted before but was kicked into the long grass, but I think it’s worth revisiting.’
He said a cruise liner would have proper facilities and everything that would be needed.
Ms Braverman has not spoken publicly since the latest revelations about Manston and leaks emerged, although Labour has tabled an urgent question in Parliament later.
The Home Secretary did not respond to questions as she left her London home this morning.
The Home Secretary was fired by Liz Truss after sharing a highly sensitive message to Tory MP Sir John Hayes from her personal email – and accidentally copying in an aide to another MP.
Her actions constituted two breaches of the ministerial code and raised security concerns.
Mrs Braverman said she ‘rapidly’ reported the mistake, and she was reappointed to Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet when he became Prime Minister last week.
Rishi Sunak in Downing Street launching the Poppy appeal today
But an email seen by the BBC has thrown doubt over her claims about the speed with which she acted.
Mrs Braverman was sent a message at around 8.30am on October 19 informing her she had sent an email in error an hour earlier, the broadcaster said.
Shortly after 10am she responded, telling the recipient to ‘delete and ignore’ the message.
But it was not until around 12pm that the Home Secretary instructed her officials to tell the Cabinet Secretary what had happened, according to a source close to Mrs Braverman.
Confronted yesterday with the minister’s email telling the erroneous recipient to ignore the earlier message, Michael Gove insisted her request was ‘standard practice’.
And he suggested Mrs Braverman is facing opposition because she is ‘brave’ and ‘making changes’, telling the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: ‘You only take flak if you’re over the target.’
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