With the fast-changing nature of UK politics and ever humming media buzz around migration, it can be hard to discern the reality of the current situation and what role each politician plays. In the hope of bringing some clarity to the confusion, I present to you, a guide to your current (at the time of writing… who knows by next week?) Home Secretary: Suella Braverman.
What is the role of Home Secretary?
As Home Secretary, also referred to as Secretary of State for the Home Department, Suella Braverman is responsible for all Home Office business.
According to gov.uk the ‘Home Office plays a fundamental role in the security and economic prosperity of the UK.’ This “prosperity” is enacted through the national security, policing, and immigration policies of the United Kingdom.
The agencies that the Home Secretary oversees include the Security Service (MI5) and National Security Council (NSC), alongside the Border Force, HM Passport Office, Immigration Enforcement, UK Visas and Immigration. The collective organisation and policies enacted by these bodies work towards law enforcement in England and Wales, matters of national security, and issues concerning immigration. The Home Secretary powerfully shapes the political tone of this complex network of agencies, through her policies and public discourse.
Who is she?
Who is the politician in this hugely influential role? Suella Braverman had previously been appointed as Home Secretary under Liz Truss’ government for 6 weeks but resigned after breaching the Ministerial Code by sending an official document from her personal email. Reappointed by Rishi Sunak, despite protestations from Labour Party MPs, Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party MPs and some Conservatives, this MP for Fareham is back in the cabinet role of Home Secretary.
Born in Harrow, north-west London, Braverman grew up in nearby Wembley with her parents of Indian origin who emigrated from Kenya and Mauritius in the 1960s. Her mother was an NHS nurse and Conservative councillor who also ran to become an MP. After studying law at Cambridge, where she was also president of the Cambridge University Conservative Association, she went on to qualify as a barrister and was first elected as MP for Fareham in 2015. A key member of the Brexit campaign, she chaired the European Research Group, a pro-Leave group of Conservative MPs, as well as working in the Department for Exiting the European Union.
As for her personal life, she is 42, has two children under the age of three, and is a Buddhist.
What has her voting shown in the past?
Information on politicians voting records is readily available online at: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/25272/suella_braverman/fareham/votes#home
I thoroughly recommend it as a resource to cut through the loud political rhetoric, to gauge where this Home Secretary has been placing her power thus far.
Suella Braverman has consistently voted for requiring the mass retention of information about communications, and for mass surveillance of people’s communications and activities. She has almost always voted for a stricter asylum system, and generally voted for stronger enforcement of immigration rules.
This paints a decisive background to her political opinion that looks to increase state surveillance powers as a means of control, and enforce an increasing hostile environment against refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants as a method of deterrence.
What has she done so far?
So far Suella Braverman’s time as Home Secretary has been marked by turbulent leadership changes, and resignation and reappointment within her own position. During this volatile start she has already been involved with numerous incidents surrounding trade deals, immigration policies, and a high level of media scrutiny regarding the housing of asylum seekers. Here’s a brief round-up of what she’s been doing so far:
Rwanda Deportation Policy:
When the first flight was grounded by the European court of human rights, she said the decision was “unacceptable”. She has also been quoted saying, “I would love to have a front page of The Telegraph with a plane taking off to Rwanda, that’s my dream, it’s my obsession”. As a previous attorney general, she said that efforts by Johnson’s government were “thwarted by our laws” and intimated alterations to the Human Rights Act and modern slavery legislation.
Indian Trade Deal and Brexit:
Comments from the Home Secretary such as “look at migration in this country – the largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants” have put strain on the potential free trade agreement with India.
Her justification lies in her continued support of Brexit, saying “I have concerns about having an open borders migration policy with India because I don’t think that’s what people voted for with Brexit”.
Manston and Asylum backlog:
A military base in Kent that was meant to be a processing centre for asylum seekers.
“The aim was to run a site that had between 1,000 and 1,600 people passing through it every day, and that all of those checks would be completed in under 24 hours” according to the Home Office.
On 31 October, there were around 4,000 migrants at Manston, held for indeterminate weeks, with some cases of diphtheria spreading.
This overcrowding is symptomatic of the chaotic response to an increase in small boat crossings which have been criminalised through the Nationality and Borders Bill. Since 6 September 2022, deals with 30 hotels had been agreed and 9,000 migrants had left Manston, with many heading to hotel accommodation. However, the asylum backlog has left approximately 13,000 asylum seekers waiting in short term accommodation, such as hotels, costing the government around £5.6m per day, from which over 116 unaccompanied children have gone missing.
Albanian fast track deportation:
The number of Albanian nationals making asylum claims has undoubtedly increased.
While no policies have been made currently regarding this particular group, Suella Braverman has stated that “by returning hundreds of people coming here illegally and dangerous foreign criminals in this way, we are sending a clear message that those with no right to be in the UK are not welcome here…I am exploring every avenue at my disposal to accelerate their removal.”
What power do we have?
I can only encourage you to listen with a critical ear to both political rhetoric and media coverage. Language conjures powerful images and emotive responses into the public consciousness, and we must attempt to remain informed of the objective reality of the situation. Fact check claims and figures with sources such as UNHCR, for refugee statistics, Our World in Data, for a global perspective, and government reports on immigration centres from HM Inspectorate of Prisons and gov.uk. For more local Durham information look to @durham.uni.star on social media.
Whatever your views are on Braverman as Home Secretary, remain engaged, evaluate a variety of sources, and fact check emotive language.
Image by Benjamin Elliott on Unsplash