Suella Braverman today admitted the Government has failed to control the UK’s borders. The Home Secretary made the comments as she was grilled by MPs on the Home Affairs Committee for the first time since her appointment.
Ms Braverman has come under fire in recent weeks over Channel migrant crossings and overcrowded conditions at the Manston processing centre.
But the Home Secretary insisted she and PM Rishi Sunak were “absolutely determined” to get a grip on the crisis as she appeared before MPs on Wednesday.
Tory MP Lee Anderson said: “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.”
Ms Braverman was also repeatedly questioned over where the fault lies for the recent problems at Manston in Kent, where at one point around 4,000 people were being detained for weeks at a site intended to hold 1,600 for a matter of days.
The former military airfield near Ramsgate stood empty on Tuesday after everyone held there was moved into hotels but it has been dogged by controversy in recent weeks.
The Home Secretary told MPs: “I’m not going to point the finger of blame at any one person. It’s not as simple as that.”
Asked again, she said: “Listen, I don’t think it’s helpful to point the finger of fault at anyone.”
Pressed further, she said: “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 reduce the generosity of the British people. That’s who’s at fault.”
Ms Braverman added that “people smugglers” and “people who are choosing to take an illegal and dangerous journey to come here for economic reasons” are those at fault.
MPs were also told Ms Braverman was given legal advice over a potential law breach by holding people at Manston when she was first appointed Home Secretary.
The Home Secretary 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.”
During the wide-ranging session, Mr Rycroft also confirmed Britain has now paid Rwanda £140million as part of the Government’s controversial policy to send migrants on a one-way ticket to the east African nation.
But he said he is unsure whether the plan – which has so far been grounded by legal challenges – is value for money.
Meanwhile, Channel Threat Commander Dan O’Mahoney could not say how many Albanian police officers have been posted to the UK to tackle the rising numbers of people from the Balkan state crossing the Channel, apart from one who has been stationed in Manston, since a deal was struck with Tirana in August.
And MPs said there is a “shortage of safe and legal routes” to claim asylum in the UK after Ms Braverman struggled to explain how a 16-year-old orphan escaping an African warzone and religious persecution to join their sibling in the UK would do so without being deemed to have arrived in the country “illegally”.