Priti Patel accuses Scotland of 'not pulling its weight' over asylum seeker crisis
The Home Secretary claimed Scottish councils and the Scottish Government were not "pulling their weight" in a heated Commons session that also saw Ms Patel suggest Nicola Sturgeon's ministers wouldn’t "lift a finger" to help.
She was being challenged by the SNP defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald, who labelled her comments “outrageous”.
He asked why the Home Office was "still placing large numbers of asylum seekers in unsuitable hotels in inappropriate locations without so much as notifying the relevant local authority”.
Mr McDonald added: "We need to ditch this ludicrous and dangerous idea that hotels are some sort of luxury for asylum seekers, when for very many the opposite is the case.
“The Home Secretary knows that increased hotel use has seen increased deaths in the asylum accommodation system."
Ms Patel replied: “Local authorities around the country and in particular in Scotland have not played their part in actually offering dispersal accommodation and I think he should be ashamed of himself to come to this House and make that point when the Scottish Government has done absolutely nothing to lift a finger in terms of actually supporting the policy of dispersal accommodation.”
Mr McDonald hit back at her claims that Scotland has not stepped up with support by labelling the comments “outrageous”.
He said: “That is one of the most outrageous answers this Home Secretary has even given.
“Every single local authority in Scotland is anxious to play its part in resettling refugees.
"When it comes to dispersal accommodation, Glasgow has stepped up to the plate while other local authorities are withdrawing from the scheme, and they are withdrawing from the scheme quite rightly because the Home Office refuses to put in place support which requires them to do that.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel replied: “We will take no lectures on bypassing democracy or local councils on this side of the House.
"For the record, 31 local authorities out of 32 local authorities in Scotland have refused to participate in the dispersal scheme so I would say to him and to all members in the House that when it comes to changes to asylum accommodation the whole of the United Kingdom needs to step up and play its part.”
The Glasgow South MP called for the Government to “swap sensationalist rhetoric and barbaric bills for evidence-based policy”.
He added: “The fact is a significant majority of these people are likely refugees.
"Home Office officials have previously acknowledged that and so should the Home Secretary. And regardless of whether they are or not, these people should be treated decently and fairly, not criminalised off-shore or warehoused.
“Her Bill is picking on asylum seekers instead of people smugglers. It’s desperate stuff.”
It came as it emerged the number of people who have made the dangerous journey across the English Channel in small boats this year is now three times the total for the whole of 2020.
At least 886 people succeeded in reaching the UK on Saturday, bringing the total for the year to more than 25,600, according to available official data.
Small boat arrivals in 2021 now stand at more than three times the figure for the whole of 2020, when 8,417 people crossed the Dover Strait.
Asked whether Boris Johnson thought France was doing enough to prevent Channel crossings, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said on Monday: “We continue to believe that there is more that can be done on both sides.
“We are introducing these new powers (in the Nationality and Borders Bill), we will continue to work closely with our French counterparts.
“By working jointly, we have stopped more than 20,000 migrant attempts so far this year – 400 arrests, 65 convictions.
“But, absolutely, there is more that can be done to step up this enforcement.”
Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay has now been drafted in to support efforts to stem the rising number of migrants arriving on Britain’s shores.
Last month, the Home Secretary claimed 70 per cent of those travelling to the UK across the Channel were “not genuine asylum seekers”.
The Commons session also saw Labour’s Nick Thomas-Symonds accuse the Home Secretary of “empty rhetoric and broken promises”.
The shadow home secretary said: “As the Home Secretary knows, the Government has already spent over £200 million of taxpayers’ money on deals with the French authorities that are not working.
“The situation is getting worse. So will the Government commit to transparency as to how the money is spent?
“The Home Secretary has repeatedly made pledges that the route across the Channel will be made unviable, but as usual with this Government it is all empty rhetoric and broken promises.
“The Home Secretary has blamed everyone but herself.”
Ms Patel accused Labour of always standing up for “unlimited migration” as she responded to a question on how the Government is dealing with the small boats crisis.
She said: “If any members have concrete proposals that are not already featured in the new plan for immigration, I would be happy to discuss and meet with them because my door is always open, particularly to those members on the opposite benches.
“Because of course they attack the new plan for immigration, they have not supported it, they voted against it and not because they are genuinely frustrated at the number of illegal migrants entering our country like those on this side of the House and the British public, but because they will always stand up for unlimited migration, free movement and they always said that and will do.”
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