Suella Braverman under pressure over 'unsafe' migrant centre conditions
Suella Braverman is facing fresh scrutiny - this time over allegations that she ignored legal advice about keeping asylum seekers in processing centres for too long, as Harry Horton reports
Suella Braverman is under pressure to resign amid reports of dire conditions at a detention centre.
An immigration watchdog said he was left “speechless” by conditions at the Manston migrant processing centre in Kent - and warned the site has already passed the point of being unsafe.
Chief inspector of borders and immigration David Neal told MPs earlier this week that Manston was originally meant to hold between 1,000 and 1,600 people, but there were 2,800 at the site when he visited on Monday, with more arriving.
The revelations prompted the Refugee Council to call for “urgent” action and request a meeting with ministers to discuss proposals for tackling the problems.
Migrants are meant to stay at the short-term holding facility, which opened in January, for 24 hours while they undergo checks before being moved into immigration detention centres or asylum accommodation – currently hotels.
The Sunday Times reported Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been accused of failing to act on legal advice received at least three weeks ago which warned migrants were being detained for unlawfully long periods.
Can Suella Braverman survive?
Cabinet minister Michael Gove said the situation at Manston is “deeply concerning”, but he denied the Home Secretary ignored or dismissed legal advice.
“The situation in Manston is not what it should be,” he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme. Everyone acknowledges that. We have more than 2,000 people there at the moment.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is also facing calls over his decision to reinstall Ms Braverman in the role just six days after she was forced out over a security breach.
Former advisor at the Home Office, Claire Pearsall, told ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand she does not think Ms Braverman can last the week given the gravity of the accusations about conditions at the centre.
Labour, meanwhile, is demanding the government publish its assessments of Ms Braverman’s sharing of a sensitive document with a Tory backbencher from a personal email without permission. Mr Gove, who made a return to Cabinet this week as Levelling Up Secretary, indicated that will not happen. “When we publish everything, we also potentially publish information that can compromise the effective operation, not just of government, but of national security itself,” he told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme. “I also, critically, want to ensure that what we don’t do is, on the basis of the imperfect information that is in the public domain, rush to judgment in a way that would seem to me to be inappropriate."
Asked if Ms Braverman is a politician of integrity, Mr Gove said: “Absolutely. Suella is a first-rate, front-rank politician."
But questions have also been raised about the home secretary’s account that she immediately reported her mistake, further cast into doubt by the emergence of an email from her personal account in which she asked the recipient of a message sent in error to “ignore and delete”. Mr Gove insisted this is "standard practice." He suggested Ms Braverman is facing opposition because she is "brave" and "making changes." "You only take flak if you’re over the target," he said. Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "You can’t have a Home Secretary who is not trusted by the security service, who is not trusted with important government information." The Labour MP told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: "We have to have proper answers about whether or not this was the first security breach from Suella Braverman."
Responding to the report in the Sunday Times, a Home Office spokesperson said: "The Home Secretary has taken urgent decisions to alleviate issues at Manston and source alternative accommodation.
"Claims advice was deliberately ignored are completely baseless.
"It is right we look at all available options so decisions can be made based on the latest operational and legal advice.
"The number of people arriving in the UK via small boats has reached record levels, which has put our asylum system under incredible pressure and costs the British taxpayer millions of pounds a day."
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