Suella Braverman said there is a “huge amount to learn” from Greece in how the European country has cut the numbers of asylum seekers arriving on its shores via unauthorised routes.
But the Home Secretary said that does not mean the UK could push back migrant boats in the English Channel following reports Athens has deployed the tactic in the Mediterranean.
Speaking to Sky News during a visit to the island of Samos in the Aegean Sea, the senior Conservative said: “There is a huge amount to learn from the Greek authorities and the Greek government in terms of the approach that they’ve taken towards illegal migration.
“And they’ve achieved some considerable success over recent years, cutting the number of illegal arrivals from approximately a million in 2015, down by over 95% this year.
“So what we can learn from the Greeks is that they’ve approached it with a policy of deterrence, tough measures, bold measures with a focus on making it clear that illegal arrivals will not be tolerated.”
Asked about reports of asylum seekers being pushed back at sea by Greek authorities, Mrs Braverman replied: “No one is talking about doing push backs in the English Channel.
“But what we can see from the Greek approach is that deterrence works by having highly secure borders, by increasing the robustness of their defences in relation to this issue.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has set stopping small boats of asylum seekers from arriving in Britain as one of his five pledges to the electorate.
But since the year started, almost 26,700 migrants have arrived via the English Channel, according to the latest UK Government figures.
The Illegal Migration Act brought into law the Government’s Rwanda policy of sending those arriving by small boats to the east African country.
Ministers are currently awaiting a Supreme Court judgment on whether the policy is lawful.
Mrs Braverman told Sky it is “impossible to give a specific timeline” on when deportation flights could take off should judges give the Rwanda plan the green light.
The Home Secretary met the Greek coastguard on Saturday and went on a patrol boat off Samos, an island close to the Turkish mainland.
On Friday, the Home Office said the Cabinet minister met Greek government officials, including policing minister Yannis Oiconomou and major general Pashalis Siritoudis, at the country’s north-eastern land border, where the government has constructed a five-metre-tall steel fence stretching 17 miles.
In a statement, Mrs Braverman said: “It was great to meet with the Greek coastguard and see the work they’re doing to tackle illegal migration.
“We agree on the principle of deterrence being the key to stopping the problem.
“We must prevent those trying to enter our countries illegally from making the journey in the first place.”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper suggested Mrs Braverman had “headed overseas to distract from her shameful failures back at home”.
The senior Labour MP said: “The Tories have created chaos in our immigration system, with a record high asylum backlog, a 70% drop in removals and thousands of people stuck in hotels, costing the taxpayer an eye-watering £8 million a day.
“Instead of trying to fix the mess the Tories have created, the Home Secretary boasts about her failing Rwanda scheme, which has already cost over £140 million without anyone being sent.
“Once again, Suella Braverman offers no answers, but instead seeks to stoke division and blame anyone other than her own Government for the failure to deliver.”