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UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman under fire over homelessness remarks

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NewsDrum Desk
06 Nov 2023
New Update
Suella Braverman UK

Suella Braverman (File photo)

London: UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman has come under fire from the Opposition and charities even as her own party colleagues distanced themselves from remarks that implied that some homeless people sleeping in tents on the streets of the country were making a “lifestyle choice”.

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The Indian-origin cabinet minister announced plans on social media over the weekend to crack down on the rows of tents occupied by homeless people as they caused nuisance and distress to residents.

However, some of her language has since been challenged with the Opposition Labour Party branding it “despicable”.

“The British people are compassionate. We will always support those who are genuinely homeless. But we cannot allow our streets to be taken over by rows of tents occupied by people, many of them from abroad, living on the streets as a lifestyle choice,” reads Braverman’s post on X.

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“Unless we step in now to stop this, British cities will go the way of places in the US like San Francisco and Los Angeles where weak policies have led to an explosion of crime, drug taking, and squalor. Nobody in Britain should be living in a tent on our streets," she said.

The minister goes on to claim that the government has put options in place for people who do not want to be sleeping rough and is working with local authorities to strengthen "wraparound support" including treatment for those with drug and alcohol addiction.

“What I want to stop, and what the law-abiding majority wants us to stop, is those who cause nuisance and distress to other people by pitching tents in public spaces, aggressively begging, stealing, taking drugs, littering, and blighting our communities,” added Braverman.

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During a visit to a gas terminal in Norfolk on Monday morning, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was asked by reporters if his minister’s comments were “offensive” and he declined to repeat the phrase.

“I don’t want anyone to sleep rough on our streets. That is why the government is investing GBP 2 billion over the next few years to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping,” said Sunak.

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“Our Homelessness Reduction Act which was a landmark law that we passed has already ensured that over 600,000 people have had their homelessness prevented or relieved so I am proud of that record. But of course, there is more to do and we will keep going so that nobody has to sleep rough on our streets,” he said.

Meanwhile, Braverman’s fellow Goan-origin Cabinet colleague, Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho, admitted she "wouldn't necessarily use that language" as she attempted to defend the Home Secretary.

"I think she was talking about different things. She acknowledged that there are people who just, you know, need our compassion. They're struggling with things like addiction,” she told ‘Sky News’.

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However, Labour's shadow leader of the Commons Lucy Powell accused Braverman of seeking to divide people with such remarks.

"I think the comments of the home secretary are despicable, really. And they speak to what this government's whole meaning now seems to be about, which is creating more division, where division isn't needed, by trying to inflame and sort of false wedge political issues,” Powell told ‘Sky News’.

Fifteen of Britain’s homelessness charities reacted by issuing a combined letter, addressed to Braverman, to caution that her plan to ban tents for the homeless will lead to "totally preventable" street deaths.

“Sleeping on the street is not a lifestyle choice. Laying blame on people forced to sleep rough will only push people further away from help into poverty, putting them at risk of exploitation. At the extreme end, we will see an increase in deaths and fatalities, which are totally preventable,” reads their letter, also posted on X.

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