Why the asylum seeker crisis is make or break for Braverman, and a nightmare for Sunak

Suella Braverman pictured outside Downing Street.

There is a full scale political crisis for the home secretary Suella Braverman and new PM Rishi Sunak in the failure to prevent the Manston migrant processing centre being totally overwhelmed by asylum seekers.

Here are the important facts:

1) Suella Braverman rejected advice from home office officials to book hotel accommodation to cope with the surge in asylum seeker numbers illegally crossing the channel.

She did this because they believed this was the way to put pressure on their officials to find a way to speed up the processing of asylum applications. Ms Braveman has never booked hotel rooms.

A Home Office source says former Home Secretary Priti booked such rooms for a period but then stopped months before resigning as home secretary. This is disputed by colleagues of Ms Patel (see end of this blog).

2) Ms Braverman and Ms Patel will be pressed by opposition parties to explain why they refused to follow Home Office recommendations.

Grant Shapps did take home office advice and started to book hotel rooms in the few days he spent as home secretary and Robert Jenrick has revived the booking of hotel rooms in just the four days he has spent as immigration minister. I understand Mr Shapps signed off the use of between 10 and 12 hotels.

3) Astonishingly, neither Ms Patel or Ms Braverman has ever visited Manston, I am told. 4) There are currently 4,000 asylum seekers sleeping on Manston's floors, compared to the official maximum of 1,500 to 1,800. The conditions are described as "very austere" according to a witness.

There are no beds or even proper mattresses, only blankets and a few army-style rolled up mattresses.

"It's like a giant village hall" said a source, who said the staff there were "amazing", and that the medical centre is "good".

5) Under English law, not European human rights law, the maximum length of stay is supposed to be 24 hours. There are some asylum seekers at Manston who have been there for three weeks to four weeks.

6) There is an assumption that charities specialising in help for asylum seekers will sue the government for keeping asylum seekers at Manston longer than the maximum 24 hours.

As one Home Office source told me, this creates the horrific prospect for Mr Sunak's government that it will be forced to pay out maybe £5,000 or £6,000 each, not to those fleeing persecution in dangerous countries but - for example - to Albanian economic migrants, many of whom, the Union for Borders, Immigration and Customs say, are thought to be criminals.

The asylum seeker processing centre at Manston Credit: PA

"That would be a disaster for the government, but it is very likely to happen" said a source. 7) In respect of the immediate humanitarian problems at Manston, this should ease a bit this week, as migrants are moved to hotels, and with bad weather in the Channel slowing the numbers making the journey from France to the UK.

But October and November are usually months where large numbers of asylum seekers risk their lives crossing the Channel, because many of them do seasonal work on French farms over the summer and then attempt to come to the UK.

The Home Office expects between 10,000 and 15,000 asylum seekers to come to the UK before the end of the year, so Manston will remain under unsustainable pressure. 8) The second massive political headache for Mr Sunak and Ms Braverman is the cost of putting asylum seekers in hotels. This costs circa £150 a night. To cope with the immediate surge in numbers, the Home Office has both booked entire hotels and what are called "spot booking", or individual rooms in hotels. "It's incredibly expensive", said a home office source. 9) There is a particular problem with Albanian men crossing the channel illegally either to find work for around nine months or to work in crime, such as the county lines drugs trade. According to the Home Office, up to 2% of Albanian men have either come to the UK illegally or contemplated doing so. "It's a rite of passage for them," said a source. The government is urgently working on plans to put to the Albanian government to try to deter this illegal flow of men.

Former home secretary Priti Patel will be pressed by opposition parties to explain why she refused to follow Home Office recommendations.

10) But Mr Sunak's biggest priority is to try to use any goodwill generated with France by his arrival as PM to negotiate a new agreement with President Macron's government, to increase deterrence, policing and prevention on the French side of the channel. This is based more on necessity than any great hope of a breakthrough.

11) When Ms Braverman addresses the Commons today on all this, as she is expected to do, she will be fighting to keep a job she's had only since Wednesday.

12) A source close to Priti Patel insists she was signing off hotel accommodation all through summer.

“No matter how unpalatable it was she always did it because not to do so would have breached statutory duties. We never breached statutory duties,” they said. So the big question for Ms Braverman is whether she has breached statutory duties.

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