Suella Braverman returns to the role as a Home Secretary six days after her resignation. Home Office’s top chief quits her post amid rapidly changing governments, allegations of failing to protect child asylum seekers and victorious campaign against Rwanda deportations.
Rishi Sunak was elected on 24 October to replace Truss as leader of Britain’s Conservative Party, and therefore as prime minister, following a chaotic week. While, Sunak is the UK’s first Asian prime minister and has a migrant background his appointment isn’t “a progressive victory”. Sunak is a strong supporter of the Rwanda policies. “I will do whatever it takes to send refugees to Rwanda”, he said. Coalition Together with Refugees urged Sunak to sort “this mess” out and “Scrap the Rwanda plan & get back to real policies”. Sunak appointed his cabinet hours after officially taking over as a prime minister, and Suella Braverman was named home secretary returning to office just six days after she resigned from the post due to data breaches as well as concerns over Truss government’s plan to relax migration rules. NGO Freedom from Torture said about Sunak’s reappointment of Braverman: “There is now no doubt of his view on the cruel cash for humans Rwanda plan”. Steve Cranshaw, the director of policy and advocacy for the organisation further pointed out: “Braverman’s policies amped up the cruelty of this government’s anti-refugee rhetoric to eleven and it seems unlikely she will show any more humanity during her second stint as home secretary”.
Amid increasing “chaos and confusion” in Home affairs, Emma Haddad quit her role as the Home Office’s top asylum chief a day after a successful civil society campaign resulted in the withdrawal of the charter airline Privilege Style from the government’s controversial Rwanda scheme. “Three Tory home secretaries in months, backlogs across the department, asylum decisions halved, millions spent on a failing Rwanda scheme, and now the resignation of a top official. The Conservatives offer no stability, and it puts our country at risk. Home affairs is too important to be faced with such chaos and confusion,” said UK’s Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper. Meanwhile, 222 unaccompanied children are missing from Home Office hotels. The immigration minister, Tom Pursglove, said 39 children had been missing for at least 100 days and seventeen disappeared within a day of the Home Office placing them in a hotel. “This is a catastrophic child protection failure. The risks to children were always substantial, obvious and stark, yet the Home Office, with the assent of the Department for Education, has willfully kept children out of the local authority children’s care system, and has failed in its duty of care”, said Carolyne Willow from NGO Article 39.
The “child protection failure” has raised concerns about the risks of the rising number of age disputes in the UK. “Many are wrongly assessed as adults and become “age disputed”, according to The New Stateman Outlet, further adding: “these children can be put in adult asylum seeker accommodation and can spend months trying to prove their age to the Home Office and local councils”. “In 2021, 562 young people were referred to children’s services having been treated as adults and placed in detention or adult accommodation by the Home Office. Of those, 413 (73 per cent) were found to be children after an additional assessment”. Wrong age assessments have “terrifying” consequences on child asylum seekers, especially since the conservative government is determined to implement the Rwanda scheme. Children misclassified as “adults” are at risk of being deported to Rwanda, which “is absolutely wrong in principle and breaches international conventions”. However, Home Office said that “No one will be sent to Rwanda if it is not safe to do so. Adults passing themselves off as children is a serious safeguarding risk”.
Furthermore, the UK is going through a housing crisis, leaving nearly 10,000 Afghan refugees stuck in hotels. Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) reported that of the 21,450 Afghan evacuees now in the UK, 7,385 people have moved into a home or have been matched to a home and are waiting to move in. Some other families were British citizens or have made their own accommodation arrangements. This leaves 9,667 Afghan evacuees who are still in hotels, sometimes more than a year after coming to the UK. With about 26,000 ‘regular’ asylum seekers already in such accommodation, the Home Office’s bill for hotels has reached almost £5 million per day. “The situation – which saw a staggering 26,380 people living in temporary hotel accommodation by the end of last year – is further evidence of the UK’s broken asylum system”.
Asylum seekers in the UK are struggling to adapt to the rising cost of living caused by the ongoing economic crisis. The government’s 40 pounds, given to asylum seekers, is increasingly insufficient to cover essentials such as food, clothing, toiletries, non-prescription medication, travel and communications. Reportedly, people placed in temporary hotels receive £8.24 per week per person. However, the amount was raised by £1.22 per week for asylum seekers living in self-catered accommodation. “You want to give up. But what are you going to do? I can’t go back. I have lost everything there. Now things are getting worse and worse here and we can’t even work. We don’t have a future”, an asylum seeker said. ECRE member Refugee Council urged the government “to do much more to ensure people seeking asylum are able to support themselves and live in dignity.”
For further information:
- ECRE, UK: Another Swap of Home Secretaries, Renewed Critique of Unworkable Rwanda Policy, Reception in Shambles, October 2022
- ECRE, UK: From Bad to Worse as Government Continues Policies Gone Rouge with Proposal to Ban Asylum for People Arriving Via the Channel and “Obsession” to See Rwanda Deportations Implemented, October 2022
This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.