The behaviour of people arriving in the UK on small boats is “at odds with British values”, the home secretary has claimed.
Speaking exclusively to Sky News, Suella Braverman said people making the dangerous Channel crossing – who include asylum seekers – were “behaving unacceptably” by “breaking our rules” and “abusing the generosity of the British people”.
But she also claimed criminality was “very closely linked” to their arrival, telling our political correspondent Ali Fortescue: “We see that there are many people coming here illegally who are then getting involved in drugs, who are getting involved in violent crime, who are getting involved in prostitution.
“All of that is at odds with British values, all of that is unacceptable behaviour.”
The Home Office was unable to point Sky News to crime statistics to back up these claims.
But a source from the department said chief constables and senior police officers had told the home secretary about “increased criminality relating to people who entered the UK on small boats”, and she was “clear that those who enter the UK on small boats are breaking the law by definition of their route of entry”.
Her remarks come as MPs are debating the Illegal Migration Bill in the Commons, with Tory rebels threatening to throw the government off course by introducing their own amendments .
One wing of the party, lead by veteran Conservative backbencher Tim Loughton, wants to make sure more safe and legal routes are introduced for asylum seekers to come to the UK.
Speaking in the debate, immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the government “accepts the need for greater clarity” in the area and would put a report to MPs within six months “detailing existing and proposed additional safe and legal routes for those in need of protection”.
And he said ministers would “aim to implement the proposed new routes as soon as practicable and in any event by the end of 2024”.
Sky News understands Mr Loughton won’t push the amendment to a vote as a result.
But another change is being proposed by former Prime Minister Theresa May and ex-party leader Iain Duncan Smith, who are seeking to protect victims of modern slavery.
Currently, suspected victims are given temporary protection from being removed from the country while their case is considered, but the senior Tories are angry that the bill removes this measure if they have been judged to have entered the UK illegally.
Mr Jenrick promised to “look at what more we can do to provide additional protections to individuals who suffered exploitation in the UK”.
But while Mrs May welcomed further discussions, she said the current plan was a “slap in the face” for those who care about the victims of modern slavery and human trafficking.
“The government will be ensuring that more people will stay enslaved and in exploitation as a result of this Bill because it will give the slavedrivers, it will give the traffickers, another weapon to hold people in that slavery and exploitation,” she said.
“Because it’ll be very easy to say to them, ‘don’t even think about trying to escape from the misery of your life, from the suffering we’re subjecting you to, because all the UK government will do is send you away and probably send you to Rwanda’.”
The ex-PM added: “The Modern Slavery Act gave hope to victims, this bill removes that hope. I genuinely believe that, if enacted as it is currently proposed, this bill will leave more people, more men, women and children, in slavery in the UK.”
Despite the harsh criticism, Sky News also understand the backbenchers won’t push this amendment to a vote and may wait for the bill to head to the Lords to try and change it.