The government is not ruling out using electronic tagging to control migrants who come to the UK illegally.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman told Sky News she is willing to use a “range of options” in dealing with migrants who cross the Channel in small boats.
It comes after a report in The Times said the Home Office is considering fitting asylum seekers arriving in the UK via unauthorised means with electronic tags.
The paper said officials are looking at it as a way to stop the absconding of migrants who cannot be housed in detention centres because they are full to capacity.
Ms Braverman also:
• Blamed “a range of forces” seeking to block ministers stopping small boats
• Said she would “do what it takes” to stop them even if “thwarted by the courts”
• Insisted the Bibby Stockholm barge is safe, despite concerns
Ms Braverman told Sky’s Jayne Secker: “We’ve just enacted a landmark piece of legislation in the form of our Illegal Migration Act – that empowers us to detain those who arrive here illegally and thereafter swiftly remove them to a safe country like Rwanda.
“That will require a power to detain and ultimately control those people – we need to exercise a level of control if we are to remove them from the United Kingdom. We are considering a range of options.
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“We have a couple of thousand detention places in our existing removal capacity. We will be working intensively to increase that but it’s clear we are exploring a range of options – all options – to ensure that we have that level of control of people so they can flow through our system swiftly to enable us to remove them.”
Ms Braverman conceded the government may have to provide more detention places while it waits for the outcome of the legal challenges against the Rwanda scheme.
“If we are successful [in court], we will be operationalising our police. If we’re thwarted by the courts, we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure we stop the boats. It is a pledge the prime minister has made, it is one I have made and it is one we are working night and day to deliver.”
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She also blamed a “range of forces… immigration lawyers, charities, NGOs, many of whom have very close links with the Labour Party” for delaying the government’s Rwanda policy.
Defending the government’s payment of £500m to France to police the beaches, Ms Braverman said it is “absolutely critical to succeeding in stopping the boats”.
“At the highest levels, between prime minister and president, we are collaborating and working closely.”
She added: “There have been hundreds of arrests of people-smuggling gangs and convictions of those who are facilitating illegal migration.
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“The only effective way to stop this problem is to break the model of the people-smuggling gangs though upstream interception but also by deterrents and ensuring that those who attempt this journey in the first place will be penalised and will have to face consequences such as removal from the United Kingdom.”
The government is also facing a potential legal challenge from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) over the Bibby Stockholm barge being used to house migrants.
Concerns have been raised about the safety of the barge – which is moored in Portland, Dorset. The asylum seekers which were onboard have been moved off after Legionella bacteria was found in the water supply.
Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the FBU, told Sky News his union had sent a “pre-action letter”, to which Ms Braverman needed to reply to by the end of this week.
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The union is hoping to get details about the barge from the Home Office, and claimed the secretary of state has refused to meet them.
But Ms Braverman later told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the Bibby Stockholm barge was safe, but could not say when asylum seekers would return to the vessel.
The Home Secretary said: “We’re waiting for the processes to complete and once they are done, we will be moving people back onto the barge.
Justin Madders, the shadow employment minister, criticised Ms Braverman’s refusal to rule out electronic tagging, saying: “The only people you tag are criminals – my understanding is that people coming to this country seeking asylum are not criminals.
“They’re usually fleeing persecution and if there was a problem with people absconding, this is the first I’ve heard about it.
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“This is just another gimmick that is not dealing with the root of the problem at all.
“[Braverman’s] party has been in power for 13 years, to keep blaming the Labour Party for every failure of the government is quite pathetic frankly. They need to own this problem. To blame other people is symptomatic of a bankrupt government,” he said.