British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Rodney Starmer, leader of the Opposition Labour Party, traded barbs for the second day on Wednesday over the United Kingdom’s “broken” asylum system.
During a weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session on Wednesday, Starmer told Sunak that after more than a decade of Conservative rule, it was high time to "start governing for once and get a grip" on the UK's "broken" asylum system.
The Labour leader was referring to Monday remarks by embattled Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who came under fire for describing the arrival of asylum seekers on the UK's southern coast as an “invasion.” She was heavily criticized by lawmakers from across the political spectrum and non-governmental organizations condemning her choice of language as “inflammatory” and “heinous.”
The Home Office is currently grappling with a huge backlog in processing claims by asylum seekers as record numbers of people keep on crossing the Channel on small boats, with London accused of "presiding over a shambles" amid overcrowding at the Manston processing center in Kent.
The Labour Party would not open borders but the Tories “lost control of the border,” said Starmer. "For four prime ministers in five years, it's the same old same old.”
The opposition leader also poured scorn on the Conservatives who “have been in power for 12 years.”
"His Home Secretary says the asylum system is broken. Who broke it?"
"If the asylum system is broken, and his lot have been in power for 12 years, how can it be anyone's fault but theirs?" Starmer asked.
In defense, Sunak said his party “delivered Brexit” and “ended the free movement of people.”
Starmer “said he would scrap the Rwanda partnership, he opposed the ending of free movement of people,” the British premier stated, referring to a controversial proposal to send people seeking asylum in Britain to the small African nation of Rwanda.
In April, London came under harsh criticism, locally and internationally, over its plan to send refugees and asylum-seekers thousands of miles away to Rwanda. The British government claimed at the time the measure would stop human-smugglers from sending desperate migrants on treacherous journeys across the English Channel.
“Border control is a serious, complex issue that not only does the party opposite not have a plan, they have opposed every single measure we have taken to solve the problem. You can't attack a plan if you don't have a plan,” Sunak said.
Starmer hit back, saying they “voted against it because we said it wouldn't work and it hasn't worked.” The prime minister said he was "getting a grip, he's got a plan. So let's have a look at that plan," Starmer added.
“The Rwanda deal was launched in April. It cost the taxpayer £140 million ($161 million) and rising. The number of people deported to Rwanda is zero. Since then, 30,000 people crossed the channel in small boats. It's not working is it hasn't got a grip,” the opposition leader said.
Sunak shot back, saying his party wanted “to defend our borders.” he added that the number of asylums processed was “not enough” and they would fix this. According to the premier, as of next March the government will have 500 more officers to deal with the asylums.
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