The embattled Home Secretary is under mounting pressure to get a handle on the migrant crisis as the Government faces potential legal action over an asylum centre with conditions branded “dire” by senior MPs.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick estimated about 3,500 people remained at the Manston facility in Kent on Wednesday night – despite its maximum capacity of 1,600 – as his boss faced questions over what will be done to address overcrowding at the site, as well as small boat crossings in general.
Suella Braverman was also under fire from the prime minister of Albania, who accused Britain of becoming like a “madhouse” with a culture of “finding scapegoats” during a migration crisis where “failed policies” are to blame.
Edi Rama lashed out at the Cabinet minister’s “crazy” choice of language in a combative Commons debate this week, in which she claimed there is an “invasion” of England by people crossing the Channel.
The Government is currently procuring hotels to relieve pressure on the Manston centre, near Ramsgate, but Mr Jenrick said he suspects it will take roughly seven days for numbers to drop to an “acceptable level”.
The situation had been branded a “breach of humane conditions”, with some 4,000 people thought to have been held at the site.
Mr Jenrick also confirmed the Government had received “initial contact for a judicial review” over Manston, but could not comment on who was behind the challenge for legal reasons.
He said the move was “not unusual” as it concerned a “highly litigious area of policy”.
But he said, as the minister responsible, he wants to ensure everything is conducted “appropriately and within the law”.
On Wednesday afternoon, a young girl threw a bottle containing a letter over the perimeter fence to a PA news agency photographer, claiming there were pregnant women and sick detainees there.
The note, written in broken English and addressed to “journalists, organisations, everyone” appeared to suggest 50 families had been held there for more than 30 days.
Asylum seekers were also reportedly left at London’s Victoria station without accommodation after being taken off the premises.
The group of 11 men were driven to the capital from Kent on Tuesday as part of a larger group, according to The Guardian.
Mr Jenrick suggested the current situation at Manston may be neither humane nor legal, telling Sky News’ The Take with Sophy Ridge he expects it “will be returned to a well-functioning and certainly legally compliant site very rapidly”.
Speaking to ITV’s Peston, he said: “We’re procuring more hotels in all parts of the country, decanting the migrants from Manston to those as quickly as we can.
“And once we’ve done that, we’ll be able to restore Manston to the kind of acceptable humane conditions that all of us would want to see.”
Earlier, four parliamentary committee chiefs piled further pressure on the Home Secretary to explain how the Government will get a grip on both the situation at the Kent facility and the migrant crisis in general.
In a joint letter to Ms Braverman, the chairs of the Home Affairs Committee, Justice Committee, Joint Committee on Human Rights and Women and Equalities Committee expressed their “deep concerns” over the “dire” conditions at Manston, asking what will be done to address the current situation and avoid overcrowding in future.
Council chiefs in Kent have warned the county is at “breaking point” as a result of the migrant situation, with the potential for disorder at Manston and the risk of far-right violence.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has described the migrant crisis as a “serious and escalating problem” and admitted that “not enough” asylum claims are being processed, but insisted the Government is getting a grip on the situation.
He has backed Ms Braverman’s handling of the issue, saying she has taken “significant steps” to address the problem of overcrowding at Manston.
Sources steered away from reports the Home Secretary is considering alternative destinations to Rwanda under the UK’s controversial migrant deportation scheme, with possible options said to include Paraguay, Peru and Belize.
Provisional Government figures show 39,913 people have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel so far this year.