Suella Braverman has said she “never ignored legal advice” on keeping asylum seekers at an overcrowded immigration centre.
The home secretary, who is facing calls to quit for the second time, said she knows the “importance of taking legal advice” and has “worked hard to find accommodation to relieve pressure” at Manston accommodation centre in Kent.
Braverman claimed “the system is broken, illegal immigration is out of control”, and that Britain was facing an “invasion” of asylum seekers on the southern coast.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said 4,000 people were on the site, which is only designed to accommodate 1,600 people. “Conditions have been described as inhumane, with risks of fire, disorder and infection,” she said.
The veteran Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale blamed Braverman for the crisis, accusing her of failing to commission extra accommodation. He said Manston “operated absolutely magnificently and very efficiently indeed until five weeks ago”.
Braverman denied blocking transfers from Manston to hotel accommodation, but said she stopped the release of “thousands of people” with nowhere to stay.
Braverman told MPs: “There are some people who would prefer to be rid of me. Well let them try. I know that I speak for the decent, law-abiding, patriotic majority of British people from every background that want safe and secure borders.”
Struggling to speak as she was heckled by Labour MPs, Braverman added: “Let’s be clear about what is really going on here: the British people deserve to know which party is serious about stopping the invasion on our southern coast and which party is not. Some 40,000 people have arrived on the south coast this year alone, many of them facilitated by criminal gangs, some of them actual members of criminal gangs.
“So let’s stop pretending that they are all refugees in distress. The whole country knows that is not true. It’s only the honourable members opposite who pretend otherwise.”
In her statement to MPs, Braverman defended her decision to keep thousands of people at the centre, claiming it was “practically impossible to procure over 1,000 beds at short notice”, and said there were “competing and heavy demands” for housing from Ukrainians, Afghans and social housing.