Home Secretary Suella Braverman denies responsibility for crisis at Manston

ITV News' Libby Wiener reports on Suella Braverman's appearance at the Commons Home Affairs Committee

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has denied responsibility for the crisis at the Manston migrant processing centre.

Ms Braverman was questioned about the legality of the centre and why it became overcrowded by the Commons Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

The Home Office and Ms Braverman faced strong criticism over conditions at the immigration processing centre in Kent, which has now been cleared, with the majority of migrants placed in hotels across the country.

On Sunday, it was revealed that a man had died in hospital after falling ill at the processing centre but the circumstances of his death are not yet known.

In response to a question around who was to blame for the Manston crisis during the committee hearing, Ms Braverman said: "I'm not going to point the finger of blame at any one person, it's not as simple as that.

"I arrived with full awareness that there was a growing problem at Manston. We worked incredibly quickly and intensively to procure extra accommodation."

Committee Chair Dame Diana Johnson MP replied: "So it's not your fault?"

The home secretary then said: "I'll tell you who's at fault.

"It's the people who are breaking our rules, coming here illegally, exploiting vulnerable people and abusing the generosity of the British people. That's who's at fault."

Home Secretary Suella Braverman blames illegal migrants for the overcrowding of the Manston centre

Tory MP Tim Loughton questioned the availability of safe and legal routes to the UK from some countries.

Loughton asked Braverman: "I'm a 16-year-old orphan from an East African country escaping a war zone and religious persecution, and I have a sibling legally in the UK at the moment.

"What is the safe and legal route for me to come to the UK?"

The Home Secretary was unable to answer the question.

Ms Braverman confirmed she was aware of the Manston crisis when she became home secretary in September, but refused to accept responsibility for the overcrowding.

When pushed further by Dame Diana, Ms Braverman said it was "not government convention" to talk about the content of legal advice.

Ms Braverman said: "If you're suggesting that I either wasn't told about legal advice or I ignored it, that is simply not true.

"But I cannot for convention reasons and because we're facing legal challenges, get into the specifics about what and when legal advice was given."

Manston was described as a "short term holding facility for processing", where people can be kept for a maximum of 24 hours.

"Exceptional circumstances" meant people were kept there beyond 24 hours due to a lack of available accommodation, but the Home Office was grilled over this explanation by the committee.

Dame Diana asked: "Why was that an exceptional circumstance because we all know that the numbers projected for this year were going to exceed the 28,500 from last year coming across on small boats?

"Why did the Home Office not have plans in place to deal with the numbers?"

Earlier on in the committee, Dame Diana said: "We note the welcome news that Manston was cleared just before the home secretary's appearance at this select committee, and it does beg the question why the crisis at Manston was allowed to grow over such an extended period.

"Can I just ask how many judicial reviews have been launched against the Home Office for illegal detention at Manston as of today?"

Ms Braverman confirmed there are a "very high" number of judicial reviews against the Home Office.

When told there were allegedly four reviews, the home secretary's top civil servant Matthew Rycroft CBE said he "didn't know there were four".

Dame Diana replied: “I’m rather surprised you didn’t think I might ask that question.”

In Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Olivia Blake, Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam, raised the issue of the one year anniversary of 32 migrants dying in the Channel.

Blake said: "Families are still waiting for answers from the Marine Accident Investigation.

"Why has this investigation taken so long, will [the prime minister] commit to a full public inquiry afterwards and does he concede that this would not have happened if there were safe and legal routes into the UK?"

Rishi Sunak replied by describing every loss of life in the Channel as a "tragedy", but the "cycle of criminal gangs" exploiting migrants needed to be broken.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know