Red Cross says Suella Braverman's plan to house asylum seekers in tents will lead to 'significant suffering'

The asylum backlog is currently at around 172,000, which is almost six times higher than between 2014 and 2017 - when it remained relatively stable.

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The British Red Cross has said Suella Braverman's plans to house asylum seekers in tents will "lead to significant suffering" and could re-traumatise people fleeing war.

The Home Secretary is putting in place an apparent emergency plan to avoid hotel use, and instead keep migrants in marquees on military bases, as the UK embraces itself for a surge in small boat crossings. The asylum backlog - the number of asylum seekers waiting for a decision on their case - is currently at around 172,000, which is almost six times higher than between 2014 and 2017 - when it remained relatively stable at around 31,000 people.

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According to a Whitehall source, Braverman has already purchased the marquees that will house the migrants in recent days and aims to introduce them by the end of August. The announcement comes as more than 14,000 people have made unauthorised crossings this year as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak struggles to keep to his promise of "stopping the boats".

However the British Red Cross - one of the country's leading humanitarian charities whose President is King Charles - has said Braverman's plans could "re-traumatise people who have fled war".

Alex Fraser, director for refugee support and restoring family links, told NationalWorld: “We know from our work supporting men, women and children seeking asylum that these sites will be entirely inappropriate for people and will lead to significant suffering.

Tents have previously been used at Manston migrant processing centre in Kent. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesTents have previously been used at Manston migrant processing centre in Kent. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Tents have previously been used at Manston migrant processing centre in Kent. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

“People who have been forced to flee their homes have already experienced unimaginable trauma. They need stability, support, to be able to maintain contact with their loved ones and to feel safe. Military sites, by their very nature, can re-traumatise people who have fled war and persecution.

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"These sites may also put vulnerable people at risk of exploitation. We find ourselves in this position as a direct result of the failure of tackle the asylum backlog, with over 172,000 people living in limbo.

"We need a more effective and compassionate asylum system, one that supports people to integrate into a community so they can find safety and live in dignity.”

NationalWorld asked the Home Office whether the marquees would just house men - as the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, Dorset will - or women and families as well, however the government department declined to comment. A spokesperson said only: "We have been clear that the use of hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable – there are currently more than 51,000 asylum seekers in hotels costing the UK taxpayer £6 million a day.

Bibby Stockholm. Credit: PABibby Stockholm. Credit: PA
Bibby Stockholm. Credit: PA

“We continue to work across government and with local authorities to look at a range of accommodation options. Accommodation offered to asylum seekers, on a no choice basis, meets our legal and contractual requirements.”

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The Times, which first reported the tent purchases, cited government sources saying a similar proposal was rejected last year because of warnings it would trigger legal challenges based on inhumane treatment of asylum seekers. Some in government compared the idea with concentration camps, according to the paper.

Chief executive of Refugee Action, Tim Naor Hilton, said: “It’s staggering the Home Secretary plans to use what a Government source compared to a concentration camp to house people seeking asylum, in the same week courts ruled she broke the law three times with her inhumane treatment of refugees.

“The winners from this cruel plan will be the Home Office’s asylum housing contractors, who trouser tens of millions of pounds in taxpayer-subsidised profits as standards continue to plummet.

“This is yet another way the Government has developed to demonise people seeking asylum, which is rooted in its deeply racist approach to refugee protection.

Rishi Sunak has pledged to 'stop the boats' as part of his government promises - the Illegal Migration Bill has now passed through the upper house, with the controversial bill now set to become law. (Credit: Getty Images)Rishi Sunak has pledged to 'stop the boats' as part of his government promises - the Illegal Migration Bill has now passed through the upper house, with the controversial bill now set to become law. (Credit: Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak has pledged to 'stop the boats' as part of his government promises - the Illegal Migration Bill has now passed through the upper house, with the controversial bill now set to become law. (Credit: Getty Images)
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“It really shouldn’t be too much to ask that people who have fled violence, torture and persecution have their claims assessed quickly and justly and are housed in safe homes in our communities.”

The government has faced a series of legal challenges around its plans to house asylum seekers and the Illegal Migration Bill, which recently received royal assent. The main tenet of that policy - sending refugees to Rwanda - has been ruled unlawful by the High Court.

The High Court also ruled that Braverman acted unlawfully by withholding payments of £3 a week to provide healthy food for children under four and pregnant women. And West Lindsey District Council, in Lincolnshire, recently won the right to a judicial review, which would determine whether the government can house migrants at RAF Scampton.

Yvette Cooper is Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary. PIC: Hollie Adams/Getty ImagesYvette Cooper is Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary. PIC: Hollie Adams/Getty Images
Yvette Cooper is Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary. PIC: Hollie Adams/Getty Images

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the idea was an example that the Home Office is “flailing around”, however she did not rule out Labour taking such measures if it was in government, saying not enough was known about the plans.

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“We don’t know what these proposals are so we’d need to see,” she said. “We’ve had all sorts of different things. Hotel use is still going up, we’ve still got the barges, bases, tents, all sorts of different things.

“I think this is in part an admission that their own legislation that they promised would stop boat crossings, they promised would end all of the chaos, in fact they are not expecting it to work. I think at the heart of this, the government is just failing to go after the criminal gangs that are driving and organising border crossings.”

Labour announced last night it will fund a specialist Cross-Border People Smuggling Unit at the National Crime Agency, which it says would "focus specifically on dismantling criminal networks that are operating across the Channel". It said it would fund it using the tens of millions of pounds "currently being wasted on the government’s failing Rwanda deal to recruit new specialist investigators".

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