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Suella Braverman Won't Commit To Stopping Illegal Channel Crossings This Year

Suella Braverman (Alamy)

6 min read

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has refused to commit to “stop the boats” this year, despite it being one of the Prime Minister’s five key pledges for government in his new year speech.

Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, the Home Secretary refused to say whether the illegal crossings of the Channel could be stopped this year.

Asked whether the government can "realistically" stop small boats crossings this year, Braverman said: “It's going to be pretty obvious when we've succeeded in achieving that. I'm not going to put clear dates on anything.

“We've got to take the steps as they evolve. We've just announced new sites this week.

“So we have to abide by various timelines in Parliament or in court. As quickly as possible is my ambition.”

However, senior Conservative aides have warned that the Prime Minister only has six months to tackle illegal migration in order to avoid electoral defeat at the next general election in 2024, according to the Express. Last week Sunak rested heavily on the government's ability to deliver the pledge when reassuring backbench MPs of their party's ability to win the next election, the Sunday Times reported.

The government introduced the Illegal Migration Bill in March in an effort to reduce illegal migration to the UK, which will enable the detention of illegal migrants without bail or judicial review within the first 28 days of detention, until they can be removed.

New arrivals who cross the Channel illegally will be removed to a ‘third’ country under the plans, with some being sent to Rwanda, and then banned from ever returning or claiming citizenship in the UK.

Facing some criticism due to a lack of space to accommodate migrants before deportation, the government has looked at plans to detain them in barges with basic facilities, as a “deterrent” for others planning to make the crossing. 

However, Braverman would not confirm where these sites would be, and would not comment on any details of “private commercial negotiations” on the matter. 

Kuenssberg challenged Braverman on whether Rwanda is a safe country for migrants, citing a well-documented incident in 2018 where some refugees staged a protest against their food rations being cut, leading to Rwandan police shooting 12 migrants dead. 

“That might be 2018, we're looking at 2023 and beyond,” Braverman said, while admitting she was "not familiar" with that particular case.

“The High Court and senior expert judges have looked into the details of our arrangement with Rwanda, and found it to be a safe country and found our interests to be lawful.”

She said she had met asylum-seekers on her trip to Rwanda last month and saw “nothing but gratitude and thanks” for the country’s resettlement scheme. 

The government is also facing criticism for current delays at the port of Dover, where thousands of passengers have been queueing for up to 14 hours due to passport check delays, disrupting many families’ trips for the Easter holidays. 

Speaking to Sky News, Braverman has denied Brexit is responsible for the disruption.

“No, I don’t think that’s fair to say that this has been an adverse effect of Brexit,” she said. 

“We’ve had many years now since leaving the European Union and there’s been, on the whole, very good operations and processes at the border.

“At acute times where there is a lot of pressure crossing the Channel, whether that’s in the tunnel or ferries, then I think there’s always going to be a back-up. I just urge everybody to be a bit patient while the ferry companies work their way through the backlog.”

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas accused the home secretary of being “on another planet”, while Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said that the Rwanda deportation plans “distract” from acute problems at the UK border.

"The Home Office continues to push expensive, ineffective schemes that will do nothing to tackle the cause of small boat crossings, or address the asylum backlog created by years of Conservative incompetence,” Carmichael said.

"All these vanity projects do is distract from this Conservative government’s shambolic mismanagement of our borders, as we are currently witnessing in Dover.

"Despite these huge queues to cross over to Europe becoming all too commonplace, Suella Braverman is so wildly out of touch she cannot even own up to the problem."

The home secretary also announced that the government will place a legal duty on child care professionals to report child sexual abuse when they become aware of it, referring to the Rochdale child sex abuse ring case for which nine men were convicted in 2012 of sex trafficking and rape of underage girls between 2008 and 2009.

“I would call it one of the largest scandals in recent British history, whereby in towns around England and around the country, vulnerable white girls who have been living in troubled circumstances have been abused, exploited, drugged, and raped by networks of gangs of rapists," Braverman said. 

“And we have to be honest about the fact that some of these gangs have been overwhelmingly British Pakistani males.

“The authorities, whether that's social workers or teachers or police officers, when they've become aware of these problems, have turned a blind eye and they have roundly failed to take the requisite action to safeguard these vulnerable girls.”

Braverman accused Labour-run local councils of “failing to take action because of cultural sensitivities” and “not wanting to call out people along ethnic lines”.

“The government is now in a position to take action,” she said, confirming that the government would lay out more details of the plans on Monday. 

West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin also appeared on the BBC show and said the home secretary was “out of touch” with her comments. 

“Anybody that works with children or in the NHS has that statutory obligation and actually I would suggest we need more hard working professionals rather than putting further legal expectations on them,” she said.

“The home secretary has also made it more difficult for victims of sex trafficking to be protected from those grooming gangs that she was talking about, so it does feel like it's very headline, it feels very dog whistle if I may say and it doesn't actually deal with what's happening on the ground.

“It does feel like she's out of touch with communities.”

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