Suella Braverman condemned for suggesting 100 million migrants could come to UK

Home secretary accused of ‘inflammatory’ language, as she claims ‘patriotic majority’ on her side

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 08 March 2023 10:50 GMT
MP John McDonnell says Suella Braverman’s 'inflammatory language’ puts migrants at risk

Suella Braverman has been condemned for suggesting that 100 million asylum seekers could come to the UK without her planned immigration crackdown.

The home secretary was accused of “inflammatory language” as she claimed the “law-abiding patriotic majority” has said had enough of people arriving on small boats.

Ms Braverman also said it would “betray” British voters not to tackle the “waves of illegal migrants breaching our border” as she unveiled plans for new laws to stop Channel crossings.

She added: “There are 100 million people around the world who could qualify for protection under our current laws. Let’s be clear. They are coming here.”

The Refugee Council said Ms Braverman’s language was “unhelpful” – pointing out that it was wrong to suggest that there were 100 asylum seekers around the world.

While the UNHRC has estimated that there at more than 100 million forcibly displace people around the world, but only 26 million have left their own country.

“It’s an unhelpful suggestion that millions could come to the UK,” said Jon Featonby, chief policy analyst at the Refugee Council. “It simply doesn’t reflect that reality that the vast majority displaced from their homes stay within the country.”

The expert added: “It is vital as the debate continues it is informed by fact and reality rather than assumptions that don’t reflect lived experience.”

Just over 89,000 people made asylum claims in the UK last, including many of the 45,000 who arrived via small boats. Campaigners have argued there are not enough safe and legal routes for those fleeing persecution.

Responding to Ms Braverman’s remarks, Daniel Sohenge, director of Stand For All charity, tweeted: “100 million people are not coming here. Good lord this is next level bs from Braverman. Devoid of reality and utterly reprehensible.”

Caitlin Boswell of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) said she was “horrified” to hear “such inflammatory, scaremongering rhetoric” from Ms Braverman, adding: “Aside from stoking fear and hate, her comments are also complete codswallop.”

Former Labour chancellor John McDonnell told Ms Braverman that her “inflammatory” rhetoric on the topic was putting people in danger, amid violent protests outside asylum seekers’ accommodation in the UK.

“Please tone down the inflammatory language,” the left-winger told the home secretary in the Commons. “It’s putting these people at risk and those who represent them.”

Braverman accuses Labour’s Yvette Cooper of ‘hysteria’ over migration criticism

Ms Braverman finally announced that legislation would be introduced to remove asylum seekers and ban them from re-entry if they arrive in the UK through unauthorised means.

She said: “They will not stop coming here until the world knows that if you enter Britain illegally you will be detained and swiftly removed. Removed back to your country if it is safe, or to a safe third country like Rwanda ... That is how we will stop the boats.”

Only children under the age of 18, and those who are “unfit to fly or at a real risk of serious and irreversible harm – an exceedingly high bar” will be able to delay their removal, Ms Braverman said. Any other claims will be heard “remotely” after removal.

Small boat arrivals have risen over past year
Small boat arrivals have risen over past year (PA Wire)

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused the government of worsening the “deeply damaging chaos” by failing to do enough to tackle people smuggling gangs or seek returns agreements with France and other EU countries.

Ms Cooper accused the government of “groundhog day” pledges that “didn’t work” in last year’s Nationality and Borders Act, adding: “They still don’t have any return agreements in place … this bill isn’t a solution, it’s a con that risks making the situation worse.”

Ms Braverman admitted that new laws aiming to prevent small boat migrants from claiming asylum in the UK may break the Human Rights Act by failing to comply the European Convention on Human Rights.

She said she was “confident that this bill is compatible with international obligations” but could not make a formal statement that the “robust and novel” plans comply with the Human Rights Act.

Clare Moseley of the Care4Calais group said Ms Braverman’s comments in the Commons “demonstrate she has no understanding of the drivers behind refugees behaviour; it’s no surprise that policies she designs to influence them fail”.

James Wilson, director of Detention Action, pointed out that the UK ranks 16th in Europe for the number of asylum applications received each year. “We should offer people protection on the basis of need, not to score political points for a government that has repeatedly endangered the lives and safety of people seeking asylum.”

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