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Picking up from where I left off on Friday, October 28, 2022, Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s woes continue in and out of Parliament.

The knives continue to be out for this accomplished barrister in Parliament. Outside of Westminster, all hell is breaking loose at two migration processing centres in Kent: Manston and Western Jet Foil.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has been watching events from across the pond, wrote an excellent summary for UnHerd of the challenges that Britain’s Home Secretary faces: ‘Can Suella Braverman take back control?’

Excerpts follow, emphases in purple mine:

I almost feel sorry for Suella Braverman. One minute, the Home Secretary was living her best life, happily raging against “the tofu-eating wokerati”; the next, she was being blamed for a firebomb attack on a migrant centre in Dover, the latest chapter in Britain’s sorry immigration story. But amid the chaos, the combination of these flashpoints perfectly encapsulated everything wrong with the current immigration system: here we had yet another politician trying to appear tough on immigration while flailing incompetently, only to be followed by an outburst of hateful violence in response to their incompetence. And so the cycle continues.

Hirsi Ali says that focusing on clearing up the immigration mess is a ‘career killer’, but it is worth bearing in mind that Theresa May was unsuccessful as Home Secretary yet served as Prime Minister for three years from 2016 to 2019.

That said, Hirsi Ali is correct in saying that political willpower is central to resolving this issue:

Perhaps the real challenge isn’t actually immigration itself, but a lack of political willpower. After all, the immigration issue is not going away any time soon. If anything, it is likely to get worse.

To put it simply, many, many more will likely make their way to Europe in the very near future. This will mean more political polarisation and extremism in Europe, as those frustrated by politicians’ failure to control their nation’s borders seek radical, even violent, solutions. If there has ever been a time to reverse decades of incompetence on immigration, it is surely now.

However, is it government incompetence causing this problem? Or is it because of intransigent civil servants assigned to the Home Office? It is difficult to know.

Legislation, such as that surrounding modern slavery — brought in during Theresa May’s time as PM — and treaties complicate the immigration problem. Capitalising on these is the bread and butter of immigration lawyers and charities.

Hirsi Ali explains that the 1951 UN treaty on refugees is woefully out of date. We have moved beyond a European-centred Cold War world:

The UK, for instance, remains a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which, along with its 1967 Protocol, the UN’s refugee agency calls “the key legal documents that form the basis of our work”. What the UN fails to mention, however, is that its legislation dates from the Cold War, and was originally devised as a short-term Eurocentric solution to a post-war problem: to help those fleeing from the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. Its architects never envisioned a world of mass, global migration from poorer, less stable countries whose people follow very different cultural norms, many of which clash with modern Western values (women’s rights, for one). The 1951 Convention is, in other words, decades out-of-date. Its authors could never have conceived the scale of today’s migrant crisis.

Regular readers of my posts know that the one flight scheduled for Rwanda this past summer never left for its destination. The few dozen of people scheduled to leave for that nation were taken off one by one, as human rights lawyers furthered their cases in the UK. The UK was allegedly violating the European Court/Convention on Human Rights (ECHR):

At present, then, it is impossible for the immigration crisis to be solved, for the simple reason that any effective new laws will clash with other legal obligations. Indeed, it is because of the UK’s membership in the European Convention on Human Rights that the Rwanda scheme failed: at the last minute, the ECHR ruled that the UK could not deport migrants to Rwanda. This is not to say that the Rwanda plan was a suitable solution, but rather that if progress is to be made, a fundamental conflict has to be resolved — and the only way to achieve this is for the UK to revisit its legal obligations and amend or even abandon them completely.

Hirsi Ali concludes:

In the short term, at least, it is unlikely that she will have the parliamentary support to push through a complete overhaul of the UK’s legislative commitments. All of which means that Rishi Sunak has little choice but to step in. This is no longer a battle he can afford to delegate. For immigration is a career-killer — and if it’s not warded off soon, Braverman is unlikely to be its only victim.

On Saturday, October 29, The Times followed up on allegations that Braverman was ‘ignoring advice’ about the problems at the Manston processing centre. These could result in an inquiry or even court action:

The home secretary received advice at least three weeks ago warning that migrants were being detained for unlawfully long periods at the Manston asylum processing centre in Ramsgate, Kent. According to five sources, Braverman, 42, was also told that the legal breach needed to be resolved urgently by rehousing the asylum seekers in alternative accommodation.

Two sources said she was also warned by officials that the Home Office had no chance of defending a legal challenge and the matter could also result in a public inquiry if exposed.

A government source said: “The government is likely to be JR’d [judicially reviewed] and it’s likely that all of them would be granted asylum, so it’s going to achieve the exact opposite of what she wants. These people could also launch a class action against us and cost the taxpayer millions.”

I had not realised that class action suits were allowed in the United Kingdom. Are they?

The article continues:

Asylum seekers are meant to be in Manston, a short-term holding facility, for no more than 24 hours while they undergo checks before being moved into immigration detention centres or asylum accommodation.

But of the 2,600 migrants at the site — which was designed to hold a maximum of 1,600 — some, including families, have been held there for up to four weeks.

The majority are believed to have arrived on the south coast after crossing the Channel in small boats in recent weeks. The centre is now dealing with outbreaks of diphtheria and scabies, with staff at the site also reporting outbreaks of violence as tensions have mounted over the overcrowded conditions.

David Neal, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, told MPs on the home affairs select committee he was left shocked by the “wretched conditions” migrants were being kept in after he visited the centre.

In claims fiercely disputed by the home secretary, it is alleged that after receiving legal advice about Manston, she refused to solve the problem by securing new hotels for the asylum seekers to be transferred to.

I empathise with Braverman, because hotels have been filling up quickly throughout the year, to the extent that Britons have either been unable to book rooms from as far back as Easter or they have had weddings and other booked events cancelled.

On Sunday, October 30, the newly-returned Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove, defended his Cabinet colleague on Sky News (video):

Late that morning, a 66-year-old man who lived in Buckinghamshire, two hours away by car, firebombed the exterior of the Western Jet Foil facility. He later died at a nearby petrol station. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured.

Meanwhile, in Parliament, Labour and other Opposition MPs were still going after Braverman for her resignation when Liz Truss was PM over two violations of the ministerial code.

On Monday, October 31, Braverman sent Labour’s Dame Diana Johnson MP a six-page letter about the events surrounding those violations:

Guido Fawkes has the letter in a more readable format, along with more information and an additional timetable:

Suella also admits to having sent documents from her personal email on six separate further occasions …

On Monday afternoon, Braverman gave a statement to the House of Commons about the weekend’s events at Manston and Western Jet Foil. She also took questions about her resignation in Liz Truss’s government.

Robert Jenrick, the Minister for Immigration, her ‘minder’, of sorts, sat behind her to keep an eye on her for Rishi.

Excerpts from her statement follow:

At around 11.20 am on Sunday, police were called to Western Jet Foil. Officers established that two to three incendiary devices had been thrown at the Home Office premises. The suspect was identified, quickly located at a nearby petrol station, and confirmed dead. The explosive ordnance disposal unit attended to ensure there were no further threats. Kent police are not currently treating this as a terrorist incident. Fortunately, there were only two minor injuries, but it is a shocking incident and my thoughts are with all those affected …

By Tuesday, police were treating it as a terrorist incident, based on social media posts from the perpetrator which later came to light.

Braverman continued:

My priority remains the safety and wellbeing of our teams and contractors, as well as the people in our care. Several hundred migrants were relocated to Manston yesterday to ensure their safety. Western Jet Foil is now fully operational again. I can also inform the House that the Minister for Immigration, my right hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick), visited the Manston site yesterday and that I will visit shortly. My right hon. Friend was reassured by the dedication of staff as they work to make the site safe and secure while suitable onward accommodation is found.

As Members will be aware, we need to meet our statutory duties around detention, and fulfil legal duties to provide accommodation for those who would otherwise be destitute. We also have a duty to the wider public to ensure that anyone who has entered our country illegally undergoes essential security checks and is not, with no fixed abode, immediately free to wander around local communities.

When we face so many arrivals so quickly, it is practically impossible to procure more than 1,000 beds at short notice. Consequently, we have recently expanded the site and are working tirelessly to improve facilities. There are, of course, competing and heavy demands for housing stock, including for Ukrainians and Afghans, and for social housing. We are negotiating with accommodation providers. I continue to look at all available options to overcome the challenges we face with supply. This is an urgent matter, which I will continue to oversee personally.

I turn to our immigration and asylum system more widely. Let me be clear: this is a global migration crisis. We have seen an unprecedented number of attempts to illegally cross the channel in small boats. Some 40,000 people have crossed this year alone—more than double the number of arrivals by the same point last year. Not only is this unnecessary, because many people have come from another safe country, but it is lethally dangerous. We must stop it.

It is vital that we dismantle the international crime gangs behind this phenomenon. Co-operation with the French has stopped more than 29,000 illegal crossings since the start of the year—twice as many as last year— and destroyed over 1,000 boats. Our UK-France joint intelligence cell has dismantled 55 organised crime groups since it was established in 2020. The National Crime Agency is at the forefront of this fight. Indeed, NCA officers recently joined what is believed to be the biggest ever international operation targeting smuggling networks.

This year has seen a surge in the number of Albanian arrivals, many of them, I am afraid to say, abusing our modern slavery laws. We are working to ensure that Albanian cases are processed and that individuals are removed as swiftly as possible—sometimes within days.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper mentioned Braverman ignoring advice about the situation at the processing centres.

Braverman replied:

As I made clear in my statement, on no occasion did I block hotels or veto advice to procure extra and emergency accommodation. The data and the facts are that, on my watch, since 6 September, over 30 new hotels were agreed, which will bring into use over 4,500 additional hotel bed spaces. Since the start of October, it has been agreed that over 13 new hotels will provide over 1,800 additional hotel bed spaces. Also since 6 September, 9,000 migrants have left Manston, many of them heading towards hotel accommodation. Those are the facts; I encourage the right hon. Lady to stick to the facts, and not fantasy. [Interruption.]

The right hon. Lady raised other points. My letter to the Home Affairs Committee, sent today, transparently and comprehensively addresses all the matters that she has just raised. I have been clear that I made an error of judgment. I apologised for that error; I took responsibility for it; and I resigned. [Interruption.]

I apologised for the error, I took responsibility, and I resigned for the error, but let us be clear about what is really going on here. The British people deserve to know which party is serious about stopping the invasion on our southern coast, and which party is not. Some 40,000 people have arrived on the south coast this year alone. For many of them, that was facilitated by criminal gangs; some of them are actual members of criminal gangs, so let us stop pretending that they are all refugees in distress. The whole country knows that that is not true. It is only Opposition Members who pretend otherwise.

We need to be straight with the public. The system is broken. [Interruption.] Illegal migration is out of control, and too many people are more interested in playing political parlour games and covering up the truth than solving the problem. I am utterly serious about ending the scourge of illegal migration, and I am determined to do whatever it takes to break the criminal gangs and fix our hopelessly lax asylum system. That is why I am in government, and why there are some people who would prefer to be rid of me. [Interruption.]

Let them try. I know that I speak for the decent, law-abiding, patriotic majority of British people from every background who want safe and secure borders. Labour is running scared of the fact that this party might just deliver them.

An SNP MP had a go at Braverman over the ministerial code violations.

Braverman replied, talking about false allegations made against her:

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the letter that I sent today to the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson). I have been up front about the details of my diary on 19 October and co-operative with any review that has taken place. I have apologised; I have taken responsibility; and that is why I resigned.

I hope that the House will see that I am willing to apologise without hesitation for what I have done and any mistakes that I have made, but what I will not do under any circumstances is apologise for things that I have not done. It has been said that I sent a top secret document. That is wrong. It has been said that I sent a document about cyber-security. That is wrong. It has been said that I sent a document about the intelligence agencies that would compromise national security. That is wrong, wrong, wrong. What is also wrong and worrying is that, without compunction, these assertions have been repeated as fact by politicians and journalists. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to clarify the record today.

Chris Philp, transferred from the Treasury to the Home Office, is shown with Braverman. Guido has the video:

Braverman received both bouquets and brickbats from Conservative MPs.

Red Wall MP Lee Anderson stood up for Braverman:

Now then. Albanian criminals are leaving Albania, which is a safe country, and the same criminals then set up shop in France. They then leave France, which is a safe country, and come across the channel to the UK. When they get into accommodation, the Opposition parties say that the accommodation is not good enough for them. Does the Home Secretary agree that if the accommodation is not good enough for them, they can get on a dinghy and go straight back to France?

She agreed. It is true that they are staying in three-star hotels much of the time:

My hon. Friend is right: the average cost per person per night in a hotel is £150. By my standards, that is quite a nice hotel. Therefore, any complaints that the accommodation is not good enough are, frankly, absolutely indulgent and ungrateful.

Late that afternoon, news broadcasts were aghast that Braverman called the tens of thousands of unvited arrivals from the Channel an ‘invasion’.

Robert Jenrick was assigned Tuesday morning’s news round. He took exception to ‘invasion’, then backtracked:

Guido wrote that Jenrick said one thing to Sky News and another to the BBC (emphases in the original):

On Sky News, Jenrick suggested he didn’t exactly agree:

Well, in a job like mine, you choose your words very carefully, and I would never demonise people coming into this country in pursuit of a better life. And I understand and appreciate our obligation to refugees…

Later on BBC Breakfast, however, he’d already diluted his language, claiming he “[thinks] it’s a phrase that expresses very clearly the concern that millions of people feel across the country”. Remember last week when the government claimed he hadn’t been put in the Home Office as a centrist diluting agent to hardline Braverman?

This Home Office lark is far from easy.

As for Braverman’s detractors, Guido suggested using the American plan of relocating asylum applicants:

I will have more tomorrow on this continuing saga.

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