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Home Secretary Unable To Explain Legal Route To The UK For A Vulnerable Migrant

Suella Braverman faced questioning from the Home Affairs Select Committee on how the government has dealt with asylum processing at Manston in Kent (Alamy)

4 min read

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has struggled to explain how a teenage orphan fleeing persecution could legally arrive in the UK to claim asylum.

Braverman was forced to defer to senior officials from her department when questioned by MPs on the matter at a Home Affairs Select Committee hearing on Wednesday morning. 

The awkward exchange arose while Conservative MP and former minister Tim Loughton quizzed the Home Secretary over the government’s plans to deal with illegal migration and the processing of asylum claims.

He asked Braverman to outline “a safe legal route for me to come to the United Kingdom” for the hypothetical example of a 16-year-old orphan from Africa who was escaping a war zone, facing religious persecution, and who already had a sibling legally living in Britain.

But she was unable to give a direct answer on the scenario. “We have an asylum system and people can put in applications for asylum,” the Home Secretary said. 

When asked to give detail of the process, she replied “through the safe legal routes that we have”, but was unable to specify what these may be. Instead she pointed to previous schemes where the UK has “offered 390,000 places to people seeking safety from various countries around the world”.

But Loughton pressed again, highlighting options that would be available if the orphan was from Syria, Afghanistan or Ukraine, where there are country-specific schemes in place, and asked her to explain what similar options would be available to a person from another country. 

Braverman replied: “Well, if you are able to get to the UK, you’re able to put in an application for asylum.”

But she was told that if this was the case then the orphan “would only enter the UK illegally”. 

Braverment continued: "If you put in your application for asylum upon arrival that would be the process that you enter.”

When Loughton questioned how the person in the example could enter the UK legally in order to claim asylum, Braverman deferred to Home Office colleagues also appearing before the committee.

Matthew Rycroft, permanent secretary at the department, suggested that "depending on which country you’re from", engaging with the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] could be a viable option. 

"That would be a way of getting leave to enter the UK in order to put in that asylum claim," Rycroft explained. 

"But I accept that there are some countries where it would not be possible.”

Loughton said the Home Secretary's response highlighted “that there’s a shortage of safe and legal routes other than for specific groups of people that we have generously offered safe haven to”.

Following the hearing, he told PoliticsHome he found Braverman's responses to his question “very weak”.

“And as it was a question I asked of her predecessor she should have been prepared,” Loughton added.

During the commitee session, Braverman was also asked about the recent situation at Manston processing centre, after almost 4,000 asylum seekers were held at the Kent facility which was only meant to accommodate around 1,500.

She said she did not want to "point the finger of blame" at anyone in government or on the UK side, instead blaming people who cross the Channel in small boats themselves.

"I'll 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," she said. 

Braverman added that "people smugglers" and "people who are choosing to take an illegal and dangerous journey to come here for economic reasons" are at fault.


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