UK home secretary defends extreme immigration rhetoric

"I will not shy away from saying we have a problem with people exploiting [our] generosity, breaking our laws and undermining our system."

Home Secretary Suella Braverman arrives for Day 3 of G7 Interior Ministers. (photo credit: FLICKR)
Home Secretary Suella Braverman arrives for Day 3 of G7 Interior Ministers.
(photo credit: FLICKR)

British Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, defended her use of terms such as 'swarms' and 'invasion' to describe immigrants coming to the United Kingdom (UK) during a meeting with her constituency in Fareham, Hampshire on the southern coast of England last week.

The defense came in response to a challenge from Joan Salter, 83, a Holocaust survivor, who pressed the Home Secretary on her choice of rhetoric. The exchange was posted to YouTube by a number of media outlets including the Independent.

"When I hear you using words against refugees like 'swarms' and 'an invasion,'" Salter said, "I am reminded of the language used to dehumanize and justify the murder of my family and millions of others. Why do you find the need to use that kind of language?"

"I am reminded of the language used to dehumanize and justify the murder of my family and millions of others.

Joan Salter

Braverman, the daughter of Indian parents who emigrated to the UK from Mauritius and Kenya, began by thanking Salter for the question. The home secretary then launched into a brief history of her family's coming to the UK and the values her parents upheld and instilled in her before saying that "we mustn't shy away from saying there is a problem. And there is a huge problem that we have right now when it comes to illegal migration, the scale of which we have not known before. And I won't apologize for the language that I used to demonstrate the scale of the problem."

Braverman then pivoted to highlighting her appreciation for the UK's history of taking in migrants. She stated that she benefitted from the UK's "generous" immigration system "through [her] parents coming [to the UK along with] many millions of [other] people."

 People are seen collecting belongings before boarding a bus inside an immigration processing centre in Manston, Britain, November 2, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/HENRY NICHOLLS) People are seen collecting belongings before boarding a bus inside an immigration processing centre in Manston, Britain, November 2, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/HENRY NICHOLLS)

Immigration to the UK has spiked in last couple of years

According to data from the 2022 migration statistics report from the UK's House of Commons Library, immigration has risen over recent decades. Immigration to and emigration from the UK were roughly on par with one another, with emigration slightly outpacing immigration rates for a time during the late 20th century. In 1994, however, immigration to the UK started to rise more rapidly, and 2021 saw a dramatic spike in net immigration.

According to the report, in 2022, immigration numbers nearly doubled emigration numbers with estimates indicating that at the year ending in June 2022, the UK saw a net immigration increase of just over 500 thousand.

The report suggests that a significant proportion of this figure is the result of an influx of people coming from Ukraine and Hong Kong.

Nevertheless, Braverman concluded her response by saying "I will not shy away from saying we have a problem with people exploiting [our] generosity, breaking our laws and undermining our system. We must accept the enormity of the problem if we've got any chance of solving it."

Braverman's remarks have received backlash online. One Twitter user wrote in response, "Braverman has no place in UK politics. Her racism, her far-right beliefs, they should have no place on the spectrum of British politics. She is a dangerous extremist."

The home secretary was also criticized for her remarks on immigration in November of 2022. In response to a crisis where the home office could not handle the volume of asylum seekers seeking refuge in the UK, the Guardian reported that Braverman blamed the migrants.

"It’s very clear who’s at fault," Braverman reportedly said. "It’s the people who are breaking our rules, coming here illegally, exploiting vulnerable people and trying to reduce the generosity of the British people – that’s who’s at fault.”