Words have to be chosen very carefully, minister says after Home Secretary's "invasion" remark
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told Cabinet the UK would always be a “compassionate, welcoming country”, in an attempt to distance himself from the comments of his Home Secretary.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman suggested Suella Braverman was seeking to “express the sheer scale of the challenge” at hand, but that he had not asked Mr Sunak how he would personally describe the scale of the issue, or whether it was inappropriate for the Home Secretary to use the word “invasion”.
Yesterday, the union representing Border Force workers at an overcrowded immigration centre in Kent said the Home Office was hoping to move 400 people out of the site, as buses were seen entering.
The site, located at a former Ministry of Defence fire training centre, opened in January 2022 and was designed to hold up to 1,600 people for no more than 48 hours.
However Sir Roger Gale, Conservative MP for the North Thanet constituency which includes Manston, said there were currently 4,000 people being held at the site and the situation there was a “breach of humane conditions”.
It comes after Ms Braverman denied ignoring legal advice to procure more accommodation amid warnings that the Manston site had become dangerously overcrowded.
With the Government spending £6.8 million a day putting up migrants in hotels – at an average cost of £150 per person per night – she insisted she was right to order a review of the way the system was working.
But she faced criticism from some opposition MPs for inflaming the situation after she said the Government was committed to “stopping the invasion on our southern coast”.
Questioned about her comments, the immigration minister said: “It is not a phrase that I have used, but I do understand the need to be straightforward with the general public about the challenge that we as ministers face.”
He later said Ms Braverman had used the word “invasion” to describe the scale of the challenge.
“In a job like mine you have to choose your words very carefully. And I would never demonise people coming to this country in pursuit of a better life. I understand and appreciate our obligation to refugees.
“The scale of the challenge we’re facing is very, very significant.”
Around 40,000 people have crossed the English Channel in small boats so far this year, and Mr Jenrick acknowledged the number could reach 50,000.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused Ms Braverman of ramping up her rhetoric because she had no answers to the problems.
“No home secretary serious about public safety or national security would use the language Suella Braverman did the day after a petrol bomb attack on a Dover centre,” Ms Cooper said.
“But that’s the point. She isn’t serious about any of those things.”