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UK home secretary Suella Braverman said that a “hurricane” of migrants was threatening to enter the country in a speech to Conservative activists that staked her claim to lead the party’s rightwing.
Braverman, who has drawn criticism from some in her party over her hardline rhetoric, claimed on Tuesday that immigration into the UK would become “uncontrolled and unmanageable” without the Tories in government.
The home secretary is among a handful of ministers in Rishi Sunak’s government who are vying to position themselves as future leaders as the Conservative head into a tough re-election battle trailing in the polls.
In a speech that won a standing ovation at party conference in Manchester, Braverman said the Tories had been “far too squeamish about being smeared as racist to properly bring order to the chaos” affecting migration to the UK.
“The wind of change that carried my own parents across the globe in the 20th century was a mere gust compared to the hurricane that is coming,” she added.
“Today, the option of moving from a poorer country to a richer one is not just a dream for billions of people, it’s an entirely realistic prospect.”
The home secretary said the government would “soon begin closing down asylum hotels”, where thousands of people continue to be housed in the UK because of a growing backlog of applications.
Echoing a controversial speech she made last week in Washington, Braverman referred to “bogus asylum seekers” who she claimed were coming to the UK simply to seek better jobs and pay.
“Nobody can deny that there are far, far more people in poorer countries who would love to move to Britain than could ever be accommodated,” she said, adding that “demand will always outstrip supply”.
“Even if we concreted over the countryside, turned our cities into one vast building site, and erected skyscrapers from Eastbourne to Elgin and from Hull to Holyhead, it still wouldn’t be enough,” she said.
The comments drew criticism from Natasha Tsangarides, associate director of advocacy at Freedom from Torture, a campaigning group, who said Braverman was “grossly out of touch with the millions of compassionate people up and down the country who recognise that human rights are there to protect us all”.
“We’ve seen the backlog [of asylum applications] grow under her stewardship, with over 175,000 people living in limbo,” Tsangarides added.