Suella Braverman has failed to explain the safe and legal routes to the UK for asylum seekers escaping war.
The home secretary, appearing at the Home Affairs Select Committee, was asked by Tory MP Tim Loughton how a 16-year-old orphan from an “East African country” escaping a war zone with a sibling in the UK could get to the UK safely and legally.
Mrs Braverman said people can “put in applications for asylum” but when pressed on how she said there are “safe and legal routes”.
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Mr Loughton pressed her and asked how this hypothetical orphan could get to the UK if they are not from Syria, Afghanistan or Ukraine, which have official programmes for asylum with the UK.
“If you’re able to get to the UK you’re able to put in an application for asylum,” the home secretary admitted.
“If you put in an application for asylum upon arrival that would be the process you would enter.”
But Mr Loughton pointed out that they could not get to the UK legally in the first place so said they would be forced to come illegally across the Channel.
Mrs Braverman could not answer how that asylum seeker could come over legally and instead called on her permanent secretary or the clandestine Channel threat commander, both sitting next to her, to answer.
Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft then said they could talk to the UN’s refugee agency “depending which country you’re from” to get leave to enter the UK to put in an asylum claim.
He admitted: “But I accept there are some countries where that would not be possible.”
The incident was just one of a series of notable moments during Wednesday’s committee meeting.
Mrs Braverman and Mr Rycroft were also ticked off for not knowing how many judicial reviews have been launched over the Manston migrant processing centre.
The centre was severely overcrowded earlier this month and there were a series of judicial reviews launched against the treatment of migrants there, with the committee’s chair Dame Diana Johnson saying she had heard four reviews had been launched.
When the pair could not answer how many, Dame Diana said: “I’m rather surprised you didn’t think I might ask that question.”
Just as the session was ending Mrs Braverman revealed no judicial reviews have been launched over Manston, but five pre-action protocol letters have been received. These are legal letters to try to resolve a dispute before court proceedings begin – an essential part of the process leading to a judicial review.
Quizzed about whether the government can send migrants to Rwanda if they are unwilling to go, Mrs Braverman said: “Let’s wait to see what the court says.”
The policy to send people arriving on small boats to Rwanda has so far not taken place as each flight has been halted by last minute judicial reviews.
Mrs Braverman’s response is likely to irk those on the right of the Conservative Party who have been strong advocates of the policy.
The home secretary was told by Tory MP Lee Anderson the Home Office has “failed to control our borders and it’s not fit for purpose at the moment” as he said more asylum seekers are being placed in hotels.
Mrs Braverman said: “We have failed to control our borders, yes.
“That’s why the prime minister and myself are absolutely determined to fix this problem.”