Home Secretary Suella Braverman is facing criticism after she said England faces an “invasion” of migrants on the south coast. The immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, has warned against demonising people seeking to come to the UK. He said words have to be chosen very carefully, distancing himself from the Cabinet minister’s choice of words.
In a combative House of Commons performance on Monday (31 October), Braverman denied ignoring legal advice to procure more accommodation amid warnings that a temporary holding centre at Manston in Kent is dangerously overcrowded. With the government spending £6.8 million a day putting up migrants in hotels, she insisted she was right to order a review of the way the system is working.
But she faced criticism from some opposition MPs for inflaming the situation after she said the government is committed to “stopping the invasion on our southern coast”. She also said illegal migration “is out of control” with the sheer numbers arriving via the Channel making it impossible to provide accommodation for them.
What Robert Jenrick say about the ‘invasion’ comments?
On Sky News, Jenrick claimed Braverman had used the word “invasion” to describe the scale of the challenge. Questioned about her comments, he also told the BBC: “It is not a phrase that I have used, but I do understand the need to be straightforward with the general public about the challenge that we as ministers face.”
He said: “In a job like mine you have to choose your words very carefully. And I would never demonise people coming to this country in pursuit of a better life. I understand and appreciate our obligation to refugees. The scale of the challenge we’re facing is very, very significant. Invasion is a way of describing the sheer scale of the challenge.
He added: “That’s what Suella Braverman was trying to express. She was also speaking, I think – and this is an important point – for those people who live on the south coast, who, day in, day out, are seeing migrant boats landing on their beaches.”
What is the Manston processing facility?
Around 40,000 people have crossed the English Channel in small boats so far this year and Jenrick acknowledged the number could reach 50,000. Home Office officials previously warned the total for 2022 could exceed 60,000.
There are thought to be around 4,000 migrants at the Manston processing facility, which is designed to hold a maximum of 1,600. It is reported that some have been there for up to a month, even though they are supposed to be moved on after 24 hours. Some families are reported to have been sleeping on the floor and there are reports of outbreaks of disease.
NationalWorld has today reported how the Home Office was warned in a report about possibly illegal detention at Manston months ago.
Asked about reports of cases of diphtheria, MRSA and scabies there, Jenrick told BBC Breakfast: “Well, those reports are not correct. They’ve been exaggerated. I spoke to the doctors who are on site and there is a very good medical centre there with – when I was there – three doctors plus paramedics supporting people with medical conditions. There have been four cases of diphtheria in a population of around 4,000. But those are all individuals who came into the site with that condition.”
He added: “They didn’t pick it up there, as far as we’re aware. They’ve been isolated and they’re being treated appropriately. But that’s not to say that I’m content with the condition of the site. I’m not.”
What has been the reaction?
Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale has said that he shares with Home Secretary Suella Braverman the view that the asylum system is “broken”. He said: “It’s broken for a number of reasons. First, of course, there has been a huge influx in illegal trafficking and again I share Mrs Braverman’s desire to see this ended. It is criminal. It is trading in human misery and it’s quite wrong.
“When you’ve seen, as I have, two, three-year-old toddlers at Manston in the processing centre, kids slightly younger, actually, than my own grandchildren, who crossed the Channel and open boats, you realise just how pernicious and how dangerous this is, and it has to be brought to a halt, that I agree with entirely.”
Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor said the Home Office needs to “get a grip” of the situation. He told Sky News: “What’s happening at Manston, when I visited, was people were sleeping on the floors, on the rubber mats down on the floors, and then very thin blankets or mattresses. Lots and lots of people in a room, all squished in together, very uncomfortable. The room for families has lots and lots of different families all sharing the same room, very young children, older children.”
He added: “For a few hours, that would be acceptable, but where people are spending long periods of time there, it just isn’t. It’s extremely concerning that children are being asked to sleep on the floor in accommodation that’s wholly unsuitable.”