Minister Put Under Pressure Over Government's 'Failing' With Refugees

More than 110 charities have called for the home secretary to make "fair, kind and effective" migrant systems.
Jon Kay questioned Mark Spencer over the government's handling of refugees
Jon Kay questioned Mark Spencer over the government's handling of refugees
BBC Breakfast

A junior minister was put on the spot over the government’s “failing” over the refugees arriving to the UK on Monday morning.

A migrant centre in Dover was attacked by three homemade petrol bombs on Sunday, the day after almost 1,000 refugees arrived at the British coast, while another centre is said to be significantly overcrowded.

Home secretary Suella Braverman has made her hardline policies on refugees very clear during her time in office, previously saying that it was her “dream” to see asylum seekers being flown to Rwanda.

Speaking to food minister Mark Spencer about the ongoing migrant situation, BBC Breakfast’s Jon Kay said: “You accept you’re failing as a government at the moment?”

He replied: “I think clearly there’s more to do, we’re making progress, but we’ve got to stop these people being exploited. We’re talking about the most vulnerable people on earth.”

Spencer also admitted “it is hugely challenging” to deal with the influx of migrants, but pinned the blame on the people-traffickers who carry the refugees across the English Channel.

“These are basically very, very vicious people who are putting vulnerable people on small boats on unseaworthy boats,” he said, adding: “We have to break that model.”

“There is no silver bullet, that’s the problem,” Spencer also claimed, but he maintained the UK has a good reputation as a “compassionate” country.

When Kay put it to Spencer that Braverman hasn’t been “listening to advice” on how to deal with the crisis, he replied: “The home secretary is completely focused on this and other issues with the home office.”

Shortly before Spencer’s media round, more than 110 charities wrote an open letter to Braverman, condemning her handling of the crisis and the language she has used to describe asylum seekers recently.

People thought to be migrants wait to be processed at the Border Force compound in Dover, Kent,
People thought to be migrants wait to be processed at the Border Force compound in Dover, Kent,
Gareth Fuller - PA Images via Getty Images

The letter was organised by charity IMIX and coalition campaign Together With Refugees, and signed by groups including Refugee Council, Save the Children and Freedom from Torture.

It began: “Home secretary, when you talk of ‘safe and legal routes’, you must be aware that it is impossible to ask refugees to come exclusively through such a path when even Afghan interpreters who are eligible for one of our few existing schemes remain in hiding from the Taliban.

“When you talk of ‘illegal migrants’, you must be aware that the top nationalities of people making dangerous journeys include Afghanistan, Eritrea and Syria, and that at least 97% of asylum claims made by people from these countries are successful.

“When you question the existence of ‘modern slavery’ you must be aware that you are dismantling your own party’s proud and internationally-recognised achievement in protecting the survivors of trafficking.

“And when you complain about the cost of housing asylum seekers, you must be aware that, while people seeking safety did not choose to leave their homelands, they are willing to work and keen to contribute, if only the law permitted them.

“You have referred to this country’s proud history of offering sanctuary, so we ask you to make this happen with a fair, kind and effective system for refugees.

“Deal with the backlog in asylum cases, create safe routes, respect international law, and the UN convention on refugees, and give refugees a fair hearing, however they get here.”

Taking aim at Braverman’s Rwanda “dream”, the letter concluded: “Then you would have really done something worth dreaming about.”

Sonya Sceats, chief executive of Freedom from Torture, commented: “Every day in our therapy rooms, torture survivors tell us about the hardship that 12 years of anti-refugee policies have caused them.

“Suella Braverman’s policy proposals promise to intensify their cruelty.”

Tory MP Sir Roger Gale also expressed his frustration at the way refugees were being treated at the Kent migrant centre, at Manston.

He told Sky News on Monday that he was concerned for the “impossible circumstances” staff and “human beings” have to face there amid “appalling” overcrowding.


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