Yvette Cooper, the Labour Party’s Shadow Home Secretary, delivered a scathing critique of the government’s handling of the small boats crisis and its controversial Rwanda scheme during a speech in the House of Commons yesterday. Following a recent judgment from the Court of Appeal, Cooper accused the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary of lacking a plan to address the chaos surrounding small boats crossings and failing to ensure the legality and safety of the Rwanda scheme.
Cooper, Member of Parliament for Normanton, Pontefract, and Castleford, condemned the government’s approach, stating that the four-year Tory boats crisis has only worsened over time, resulting in a broken asylum system. She highlighted the government’s failure to combat criminal gangs operating along the borders, whose profits have skyrocketed from £3 million to over £180 million. Cooper emphasised that the government had promised to end boat crossings within six months four years ago, yet the numbers have increased by more than twentyfold since then.
Pointing to the staggering increase in the cost of the asylum system, Cooper placed the blame squarely on Tory mismanagement and chaos, which has led to a backlog reaching a record high of 175,000 cases. The projected cost of these failures, according to the Home Office, stands at £11 billion. She criticised the government for focusing on ineffective gimmicks instead of taking practical action, as outlined by the Labour Party, to combat criminal gangs, secure stronger agreements with countries like France, and address the mounting backlog that is straining resources.
Cooper vehemently denounced the government’s Rwanda scheme as unworkable, unethical, exorbitantly expensive, and a diversion from the urgent action required to protect border security and save lives. She cited the recent judgment, which revealed that each person sent to Rwanda would cost £169,000, in addition to the £140 million already allocated. Moreover, the Lord Chief Justice indicated that substantial sums of future aid support would be necessary, as the Rwandan asylum system currently processes only about 100 decisions a year with a 100% rejection rate for asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen.
Drawing attention to the flaws in the government’s plan, Cooper highlighted the limited capacity of Rwanda’s asylum system, consisting of only one committee making decisions and one eligibility officer handling cases. Even the Lord Chief Justice, while acknowledging that the scheme could be lawful, emphasised that it was contingent upon its small scale, accommodating just 100 people. Cooper criticised the Home Secretary for misleadingly referring to thousands of people being sent to Rwanda when the Lord Chief Justice had dismissed such claims as “political hyperbole.” She further questioned the Home Secretary’s commitment to wasting taxpayers’ money on a failing policy instead of devising a serious and effective plan.
In her speech, Cooper also referred to the damning indictment of the Tory Home Office by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, which highlighted the department’s inability to pursue casework or maintain accurate data. She criticised the Home Secretary for presiding over chaos, failing to address the small boats crisis, clear the backlog, or fix the broken asylum system. Cooper challenged the Home Secretary to provide answers to the serious questions raised, rather than resorting to blaming others and diverting attention away from her own decision-making.
The Labour Shadow Home Secretary concluded her speech by calling for solutions, not slogans, and a government capable of taking decisive action. She questioned the Home Secretary’s capabilities, urging her to step aside and allow someone else to take charge.
The government’s response to Cooper’s scathing remarks remains to be seen as the issue continues to dominate discussions surrounding immigration and asylum policies in the United Kingdom.