More than 110 refugee organisations signed an open letter to Home Secretary, Suella Braverman,calling for a kinder and more effective asylum system in the UK amid ongoing deterrence efforts and arrivals. Home Office is facing scrutiny at all fronts over inhumane conditions in reception facilities and “disastrous” handling of channel crossings.

UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman is “battling to save her job” a few days after she was reappointed by new PM Rishi Sunak over critiques of her “dream” to implement the controversial Rwanda scheme as well as “inhumane treatment” of asylum seekers in overcrowded hotels. In an open letter signed by more than 110 refugee charities showing “the depth of feeling against the Government’s anti-refugee policies”, Braverman is urged to “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”. The charities conclude “Then you would have really done something worth dreaming about”. Freedom from Torture Director said that “Braverman’s dream of flying refugees to Rwanda by Christmas seems even further from realisation, after the airline hired to carry out the fights bowed to pressure and pulled out of the scheme”. Home Office Spokesman commented on the letter pointing out the UK’s “proud history” of “providing protection for those who genuinely need it through our safe and legal routes, recently welcoming hundreds of thousands of people from Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Ukraine”. Meanwhile, an internal document for the Danish government reveals violent and critical conditions in the “progressive” Rwanda. In contrast to being an “example” when it comes to “the promotion of women’s rights and human rights,” the document reports about sexual violence, discrimination against minorities and overcrowded refugee camps in the African state.

Amid failing deterrence efforts and rising arrivals, Sunak had his first official phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron a few days after he became UK PM to ask for “help with channel migrants”. Sunak stressed the importance for both countries of making the deadly Channel route “completely impassable for human traffickers” while aiming for an agreement “with quantified targets for intercepted boats, a minimum number of French agents assigned to monitor the beaches and British border guards to accompany them”. Meanwhile, almost 1,000 migrants crossed the English Channel in 24 small boats on 29 October, bringing the total number of migrants making the journey from France so far this month to 6,395. “UK government ‘solutions’ to small boat Channel crossings so far: fund massive bordering in Calais, deploy military vessels in the Channel, categorise all as inadmissible for asylum, detain them in squalid detention centres where disease is rife, deport everyone to Rwanda”, said Lecturer Lucy Mayblin. The Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, criticised the government’s “disastrous handling of Channel crossings” and called for an improved asylum system instead of the “unworkable gimmicks” like the Rwanda scheme.

The Home Office is under fire over the conditions in the ‘catastrophically overcrowded’ migrant processing centre in Kent. Despite legal warnings over blocking transfers that keep asylum seekers in overcrowded, disease-ridden processing centres for too long, the “very concerned” Braverman refused “to allow anyone to leave Manston”. In response to “accusations”, Braverman defended her position in keeping migrants in Manston saying that what she refused “is to prematurely release thousands of people into local communities without having anywhere for them to stay.” ECRE member Refugee Council urged the government “to create a fast-track task force to address the backlogs” and “to remember that behind every case there is a face – people who have fled war, persecution and conflict”. Despite critiques, a number of newly arrived asylum seekers were brought to Manston in more than a dozen coaches on 29 October. In response to questions from MPs regarding the situation in Kent, Braverman told MPs the asylum system is “broken”, and added: “Illegal migration is out of control and too many people are interested in playing political parlour games, covering up the truth than solving the problem”. On 2 November, Keir Starmer, the Head of the Labour Party, asked new PM Sunak: “who broke the asylum system?”. Sunak expressed that he’s serious about fixing it while blaming the labour for “wanting open borders”. “How can it be anyone’s fault but theirs?”, Starmer demanded as the conservative has been in power for the past 12 years. Sunak was also asked about the number of processed asylum claims of channel arrivals. “Not enough,” Sunak admitted. “It’s four per cent,” Starmer reminded him.

On the same day, a man had thrown petrol bombs attached with fireworks at a migrant centre in the Southern English port of Dover. The police said that two people were mildly injured and the suspect was found dead later. While Braverman described the incident as “distressing”, the police is urged to treat the attack as “terrorism” amid rise of anti-migrant and far-right attacks. “I don’t see how they can’t treat it as a terrorist incident”, said Edward Biggs, a Labour town councillor. Hope Not Hate charity said the government’s “demonisation” of asylum seekers and refugees was “mainstreaming anti-migrant rhetoric and encouraging far-right groups to target” refugees. A day after the attack, Braverman called refugees “invaders” sparking anger amid refugee organisations who described her comments as “heinous” and “dehumanising”. The labour party also accused Braverman of “highly insensitive language”. The Executive of the Refugee Council said in an op-ed that this “refugee crisis” is “the government’s own making”.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.