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Tory MP Fears Home Office Risks “Whipping Up Vigilante Action” With Migrant Response

Suella Braverman has been warned she risks "whipping up resentment" against people arriving in the UK (Alamy)

4 min read

A Conservative member of the Home Affairs Committee has warned there is a “real risk” that the government's response to the migrant crisis could escalate tensions unless a long-term solution is found to address an increase in asylum seekers arriving in the UK.

Former minister Tim Loughton believed a failure by government to take control of the crisis, in which delays in processing asylum applications have resulted in severe overcrowding at the Manston asylum centre, could result in “whipping up vigilante action”. 

Earlier this week leaders of every council in Kent, where the centre is based, wrote to Home Secretary Suella Braverman warning that her language on the issue has meant the area has become a target for “incidents of far-right activity”.

Responding in the Commons to an Urgent Question on overcrowding at Manston, Braverman described an increase in illegal migrants arriving in the UK as an "invasion". 

“We need to have a common, rational and balanced approach to this, this is all about finding solutions rather than whipping up vigilante action," Loughton told PoliticsHome podcast The Rundown.

“There's a real risk of that happening if we're not careful, that lone bomb attack fortunately didn't harm anybody, but we don't want anything further like that getting out of hand.

“We all need to work on this together because it's a problem that is not helping anybody.”

The incident, where a man threw petrol bombs at a Border Force facility in Dover before killing himself, is now being investigated by counter-terror police.

“The last thing we need is for people taking the law into their own hands, which is why people have got to see that this is being dealt with, that there are solutions and we're not throwing more and more taxpayers money at hotel accommodation, when we've all got loads of constituents who have been on housing waiting lists for ages and are getting more and more neglected,” Loughton said.

“That's the fear, that it will whip up that resentment.”

Labour peer Lord Dubs, who fled Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia as a child during WW2, told PoliticsHome on Wednesday he believed Braverman’s “inflammatory” comments about an “invasion on our southern coast” could spark further violence against refugees.

On Thursday Braverman visited migrant processing facilities in Dover where she met with Border Force staff and military personnel to discuss operations in the Channel.

She also visited Manston where there have been reports of squalid conditions, disease and overcrowding at the former defence base which was opened by the Home Office earlier this year to improve processing of new arrivals in small boats across the Channel.

Loughton said his committee went to visit over the summer, and found it to be “quite impressive”. 

“There weren't many people there, the facilities were pretty good with play areas for children, and actually, it was fit for purpose," he explained. 

But a significant increase since then in the number of people illegally crossing that Channel, as well as delays in processing their asylum applications, has meant that the centre which is designed for around 1,500 people to be moved through it within 24 hours, is now severely over capacity. It is believed that as many as 4,000 people were on site in recent weeks, with reports some had been there for up to a month. 

"There's a problem with the numbers coming in, there’s a problem with the lack of speed of processing people and getting them on to more sustainable, longer term accommodation whilst their claims are being processed," Loughton continued. 

“Manston is in the eye of that storm as it were, that’s why it's hitting the news at the moment, and something urgently needs to be done.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The number of people arriving in the UK via small boats has reached record levels and continues to put our asylum system under incredible pressure.  

"Manston remains resourced to ensure the security and welfare of migrants and staff on the site as we continue to work to resolve the current outflow issues."

“We urge anyone who is thinking about leaving a safe country and risking their lives at the hands of vile people smugglers to seriously reconsider. Despite what they have been told, they will not be allowed to start a new life here.”

  • For the full comnversation with Tim Loughton listen to this week's episode of The Rundown, out soon. 


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