Suella Braverman’s plans to stop migrant boats crossing the English Channel would see as many as 45,000 children effectively barred from claiming asylum in the UK, a leading refugee charity has said.
The claims have been made in a forthcoming report by Refugee Council, seen exclusively by The Observer, which examines the overall consequences of the government’s Illegal Migration Bill. One impact highlighted in the report - soon to be published in full - is that under the proposed new legislation, thousands of children would be deprived of seeking refugee status in the UK.
It comes as the Home Secretary faces mounting criticism from charities, opposition MPs, and Tory MPs over her immigration plans, with some questioning the legality of the plans and others raising concerns over their impact on children and on victims of trafficking and modern slavery.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May, who introduced the Modern Slavery Act in 2015 when she was Home Secretary, said the Home Office “knows genuine victims of modern slavery would be denied support” under the bill. She told the House of Commons: “As it currently stands, we are shutting the door to victims who are being trafficked into [modern] slavery [in] the UK. Anybody who thinks that this bill will deal with the issue of illegal migration once and for all is wrong.”
Braverman has also come under fire this weekend for some controversial comments made during her trip to Rwanda, where she is touring potential migrant housing.
This accommodation is in theory where asylum seekers deemed to have arrived in the UK ‘illegally’ would be deported to under a new asylum plan by the Home Office. But despite the deal being agreed 11 months ago, no flight has taken off as the plan remains mired in legal challenges.
While looking inside one of the potential properties for asylum seekers, Braverman joked: “These houses are really beautiful, great quality, really welcoming, and I really like your interior designer. I need some advice for myself.”
But she was accused of “playing politics with people’s lives”, with Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael remarking: “This is a new low for Suella Braverman.” He argued that Braverman had already “wasted taxpayers money on this pointless trip”, and is now “playing politics with people’s lives and chasing cheap headlines instead of doing her job properly.”
He concluded: “People are losing their lives on the channel and all Braverman has in response is foul comments about interior design. What a disgrace.”
Meanwhile, Labour’s Diane Abbott tweeted a picture of the Home Secretary smiling in Rwanda, commenting: “Suella Braverman in Rwanda having a good laugh about all the asylum seekers that she is going to dump there.”
Cabinet Minister Oliver Dowden however defended the government when confronted by Sky News over whether Braverman’s comments were “tone deaf”. He said: “Contrary to some of the characterisation of the policy, this is about making sure there is somewhere safe and secure for people to get to.
“And actually, the purpose of the Home Secretary’s visit was to further strengthen our relationships with Rwanda, so people should feel confident in this policy.” Then, when asked about the prospect of children being among those deported, Mr Dowden replied: “I don’t relish any of this and I really wish we didn’t have to do it. The government isn’t running to do this. [It’s] doing this because this is a major problem.”
Braverman has also been criticised over only inviting media outlets considered to be right-wing to accompany her on the tax-payer funded trip. GB News, the Daily Mail, the Express, and the Telegraph all received invitations - but the The Guardian, Mirror, Independent, and i Newspaper, as well as broadcasters BBC and Sky News, were excluded.
In a statement released on Friday (17 March), Braverman said: “The UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership is a ground-breaking approach that will act as a powerful deterrent against dangerous and illegal journeys such as small boat crossing”.
She said her visit to the country in Africa was to “reinforce the government’s commitment to the partnership as part of our plan to stop the boats and discuss plans to operationalise our agreement shortly”.
One refugee living in Rwanda, Fesseha Teame, who has resettled with his wife and four children, told reporters on Saturday (18 March) that he had “never felt I have been considered as a foreigner” in Rwanda, but did not see the nation as having the capacity to hold “many thousands” of migrants.
His comments came after Braverman told media: “Rwanda has the capacity to resettle many thousands of people, and can quickly stand up accommodation once flights begin.”