Suella Braverman ‘amps up cruelty’ of Rishi Sunak’s cabinet as sacked minister returns

Refugee charities say they will fight home secretary’s ‘dream’ of seeing asylum seekers forced to Rwanda

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Editor
Wednesday 26 October 2022 09:25 BST
Rishi Sunak: Who is in the prime minister's new cabinet?

Charities have accused Rishi Sunak of “amping up the cruelty” of his new cabinet after reinstating Suella Braverman as home secretary.

The move comes days after she resigned for breaching the ministerial code, following a tumultuous six weeks in post that saw her hit headlines for describing the Rwanda deal as her “dream and obsession”.

Ms Braverman is considered to be on the right wing of the Conservative Party and has hardline ambitions for policies across asylum, modern slavery, migration and crime.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, accused Mr Sunak of “putting party before country” with the appointment.

She added: “He said he wants his government to have 'integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level' yet he has just appointed Suella Braverman to be home secretary again a week after she resigned for breaches of the ministerial code, security lapses, sending sensitive government information through unauthorised personal channels, and following weeks of non-stop public disagreements with other cabinet ministers.

“Our national security and public safety are too important for this kind of chaos,” she added.

The Freedom from Torture charity accused the new prime minister of “appeasing the right wing of the party” for political reasons, after Ms Braverman backed his second leadership bid.

Suella Braverman’s surprise return to Home Secretary was announced Tuesday evening

Steve Cranshaw, the director of policy and advocacy, said: “Rishi Sunak promised a fresh start from the huge mistakes made by Liz Truss during her short time in office. His decision to bring Braverman back as home secretary, less than a week after she resigned for breaching the ministerial code, suggests he intends to repeat them.

“Mr Braverman’s policies amped up the cruelty of this government’s anti-refugee rhetoric to eleven and it seems unlikely she will show any more humanity during her second stint as home secretary.”

The Independent understands that Ms Braverman previously triggered discussions between the Home Office, Downing Street and government lawyers aiming to alter the operation of human rights and modern slavery laws in relation to asylum claims - as she views them as a bar to the implementation of the Rwanda deal and deportations.

With Dominic Raab being re-appointed as justice secretary, that work is now expected to resume and the decision to shelve the Bill of Rights may be reviewed.

Suella Braverman says seeing a plane taking off to Rwanda is 'her dream'

During an event at the Conservative Party conference earlier this month, Ms Braverman said that seeing a flight take asylum seekers to Rwanda was her “dream” and “obsession”.

“[Starting by Christmas] would be amazing but if I’m honest I think it will take longer,” she added. “We’ve got to come out of the legal dispute we are currently embroiled in.”

The Independent previously revealed the full horrors of the first attempted Rwanda fight in June, which saw asylum seekers restrained and attached to plane seats after self-harming and threatening suicide.

Forms filled out by custody staff after “use of force incidents” show how the detainees started crying, screaming, shouting and frantically calling lawyers and loved ones after being told they would be sent to Rwanda.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said her dreams were “real-life nightmares”.

“We’ll keep fighting so her cruel dreams never come true,” a statement on Twitter added.

Ms Braverman replaces Grant Shapps, who was in the job for a matter of days

The Migrant Voice campaign group said it was “disappointed” by Ms Braverman’s appointment, which they saw as a commitment by the prime minister to hardline policies.

“What this country needs is an immigration system that works to protect refugees, and treats all migrants with compassion,” a spokesperson added.

“We need safe and legal routes, not deportation flights to foreign countries. We need a fair and equitable visa system, not one which benefits from migrants' wallets. But mostly we need to build a society which respects all migrants as a vital part of our community.

“With the appointment of the prime minister's new cabinet we don't see this happening.”

Mr Braverman’s resignation last Wednesday was reported in the media before being communicated to Office staff, who had barely started work to implement her controversial agenda.

“The thing that struck us about her is that she talked a lot but didn’t deliver on anything,” a source said at the time

“Stability is what staff want, it would be quite nice to have someone quite boring who’s not briefing to the press every five minutes.”

The appointment of Grant Shapps as home secretary had been greeted with cautious optimism among civil servants last week, but he was made business secretary as Mr Sunak appointed his first cabinet on Tuesday.

The new prime minister has vowed to “make the Rwanda policy work” and stop irregular Channel crossings.

During his first leadership campaign, he hit out at “boat after boat full of illegal migrants coming from safe European countries” but claimed he would welcome “genuine asylum seekers”.

Mr Sunak issued a 10-point plan including a pledge to “reform our broken asylum laws”, including by “tightening our definition of who qualifies for asylum in the UK” and enhanced powers to “detain, tag, and monitor illegal migrants”.

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