Having barely left time for the ink to dry on her new appointment as home secretary, Suella Braverman was seen whimsically reflecting that it would be her “dream” to see a deportation flight taking off to Rwanda. This particularly cruel anti-immigration stance was characteristic of her Home Office.
It was – or so we thought – short lived. After just 43 days, Braverman quit. She cited the misuse of her personal email, but her allies on the right claimed she was forced out by former Prime Minister Liz Truss and the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt.
But in less than a week, a new PM has been installed, and Braverman has somehow returned. She has cemented her position that she is firmly to the right of her predecessor, Priti Patel. Her philosophy is this: Britain needs, for some unknown reason, to “take back control” of its borders. Specifically, in the words of Braverman, we need to “stop the small boats crossing the Channel”.
Braverman planned – and will no doubt continue in this vein – to address the “problem” of asylum seekers by making it near impossible to claim asylum in the first place. She proposes that, unless you arrive through a “safe and legal” route, you won’t be able to make a claim and are at risk of being sent back to your home country, or deported to Rwanda. In its current form, a policy like this would breach the refugee convention. Furthermore, safe routes into the UK are limited – further curtailed by the Nationality and Borders Act – and organisations such as Care4Calais and Safe Passage International, have called for the government to expand them to prevent people having to take these desperate measures to travel to the UK.
Rainbow Migration, a charity supporting LGBTQIA+ people through the immigration system, told gal-dem, “There are simply no official accessible routes for asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, to come here and claim asylum… If there are no formal routes open and accessible to those who need them, then people will be forced to travel however they can in order to get here.”
The lack of ‘safe and legal’ routes into the UK forces people to make dangerous decisions that put their lives at risk. Between 1999 and 2020, almost 300 people died attempting to cross the Channel to the UK.
“The claim that asylum seekers are ‘abusing’ the system is a morally bankrupt lie that’s been disproven by experts”
The home secretary’s plan is as hostile as it is entirely unfeasible. In her first week, Braveman reportedly set a “no small-boats crossing the channel” target – a claim understood to be impossible by immigration experts. More than 33,500 people have crossed the Channel to the UK on small boats this year, which is the highest number to date, and the number of Afghans crossing the Channel in small boats has increased significantly. Braverman’s foundation for this ridiculous ‘goal’ is the fictitious claim that asylum seekers are “abusing” the system – a morally bankrupt lie that has recently been disproven by experts, emphasising that those seeking asylum are vulnerable people who are being exploited.
In further safeguarding issues, the Home Office classified modern slavery – a claim through which people can seek asylum – as an “illegal immigration and asylum issue” no longer under the responsibility of the minister for safeguarding. Charities say this is an extremely dangerous move for victims and shows the government is not prioritising modern slavery as a crime.
Braverman’s attention was not only focused on asylum seekers. In her previous stint at home secretary, she was dead set on reducing overall net migration into the UK by “tens of thousands” – an ambition no other Conservative government has met. Braverman bit back against the prime minister’s proposed trade agreement with India (in which Britain would provide more work and study visas to Indian nationals), over concerns that they would outstay and ultimately increase immigration into the UK. However, new research from Ipsos shows that support amongst British adults for reducing immigration into the UK is at its lowest level since 2015.
An attack on human rights
Leaning into the racist pathologisation of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers is nothing new for Braverman. The Cambridge law graduate entered parliament in 2015 as the MP for Fareham, stating in her maiden speech that “it is a stroke of luck to be born British”. Braverman’s parents, both of Indian heritage, seem to be excluded from this ‘lucky’ folk – they immigrated to the UK from Mauritius and Kenya in the 1960s, settling in Wembley. A clear political influence on Bravernam, her mother Uma Fernandes, served as a Conservative councillor for Brent council, running as an (unsuccessful) candidate for Brent East in 2003.
“Braverman’s appointment to home secretary adds fuel to an already blazing inferno of bitter anti-immigration sentiment in the UK”
Braverman became an avid Brexiteer (with a short stint as Brexit minister), set on reducing immigration into the UK and ultimately tapering the freedoms of those ‘unlucky’ folk who don’t own a British passport. Braverman’s Home Office is being taken to court over allegations that the conditions for the rights of EU citizens post-Brexit – made by the Home Office – are unlawful, potentially leaving people at risk of deportation and stripped of their right to live and work in the UK.
In her subsequent role as the attorney general, Braverman made it clear that in order to “take control of our borders” – and to successfully deport people to Rwanda – the UK must scrap its commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which blocked the flight. The government’s attack on the ECHR, and our human rights, is now rationalised through the Rwanda plan, despite the Home Office knowing the plan is flawed.
Braverman is also infamous for her attacks on ‘rights culture’, which includes her criticisms of trans rights, labelling it “woke rubbish”. In the summer, Braverman was critiqued by legal experts for her warped interpretation of the Equalities Act after claiming it to be lawful for schools to misgender trans pupils and deny them access to certain toilets.
In another culture-war-mongering calamity she claimed the British Empire was a force for good – as something she is “proud of”. She also threatened to have the Colston Four case – those who toppled the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol – referred to the court of appeal after they were acquitted. Her rejected plans to have marijuana reclassified as a class A drug – where punishment for those supplying is life in prison – were shockingly regressive. The list goes on. Her LGBTQIA+ voting records are dismal, and her opinions on the climate crisis are enough to spark fear in even the most hopeful. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Braverman’s 2022 failed leadership campaign received a donation of £10,000 from a company owned by Terence Mordaunt – a vocal climate change denier.
Braverman’s appointment to home secretary adds fuel to an already blazing inferno of bitter anti-immigration sentiment in the UK. The unforgiving zeal of her first few weeks signifies that Braverman will not hesitate to condemn valuable human lives to suffering in the name of populist buzzwords like ‘control’. Her plans, increasing in their authoritarian bent from her predecessors, could not succeed in their impossible aims. Braverman is selling Britain a lie.
This article was amended on 25 October 2022 to reflect Braverman’s return to the Home Office.
Read more of gal-dem’s Bad Politicians series here.
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