Suella Braverman claimed there is an “invasion” of England by migrants crossing the Channel, as she faced calls to quit during a stormy Commons appearance.
The Home Secretary said around 40,000 people have arrived on the south coast of England in 2022, more than double the number of arrivals via the English Channel in 2021.
After questions about overcrowding, she said “several four-star hotels” are being used to house migrants and suggested the accommodation is “quite nice”.
Ms Braverman later agreed with suggestions from Conservative MP Lee Anderson (Ashfield) that some migrants can “get on a dinghy and go straight back to France” if they believe the accommodation in the UK is not good enough.
MPs were told £6.8 million a day is spent on hotel accommodation for migrants.
The remarks came during a Commons statement from Ms Braverman on overcrowding at the Manston migrant holding centre in Kent and an update on the Western Jet Foil incident, which saw the Dover immigration centre firebombed.
Ms Braverman, responding to questions and criticism from Labour, recounted her apology for errors that led to her initial resignation as Home Secretary a fortnight ago.
The Home Secretary, who was reappointed to the role just days later, added: “Let’s be clear about what is really going on here: the British people deserve to know which party is serious about stopping the invasion on our southern coast and which party is not.
“Some 40,000 people have arrived on the south coast this year alone. Many of them facilitated by criminal gangs, some of them actual members of criminal gangs.
“So let’s stop pretending that they are all refugees in distress. The whole country knows that is not true. It’s only the honourable members opposite who pretend otherwise.
“We need to be straight with the public. The system is broken. Illegal migration is out of control and too many people are interested in playing political parlour games, covering up the truth than solving the problem.”
Labour MPs heckled Ms Braverman, shouting that the Conservatives are responsible for such a state of affairs.
Ms Braverman also told MPs she is “circumspect” of Albanian migrants claiming to be modern slavery victims.
On hotels, Labour MP Stella Creasy said: “There is nothing patriotic about making children suffer but that is exactly what is happening as a direct result of this Home Secretary’s failure to get to grips with processing asylum.”
The Walthamstow MP questioned whether hotels are a “better option”, adding: “In my constituency, there is one with 150 children in squeezed alongside another 350 adults, seven or eight to a room.”
Ms Braverman said unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are only being accommodated “in hotels with a maximum occupancy of 353”.
She added: “What I would just say to her is this: I think it is a fallacy to suggest that we are somehow cutting corners. When I arrived at the Home Office I have been frankly very dismayed and appalled to find that we are spending on average £150 per person per night to accommodate people in hotels.
“By my standards that is quite a nice hotel and upon my review and closer scrutiny of how that decision-making was taking place, I identified several four-star hotels around the country being procured for this purpose. For me, that is not an acceptable use of taxpayers’ money.”
Tory MP Mr Anderson said “Albanian criminals” are leaving safe countries to reach the UK, adding: “Then, when they get into accommodation, we’ve got the opposition parties saying the accommodation is not good enough for them.
“Or does the Home Secretary agree with me that if the accommodation is not good enough for them they can get on a dinghy and go straight back to France?”
Ms Braverman replied: “Well, my honourable friend is right.
“The average cost per night is £150 per person per night in a hotel. By my standards, that’s quite a nice hotel, I’m afraid, and therefore any complaints that the accommodation isn’t good enough is frankly absolutely indulgent and ungrateful.”
Labour’s Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) described Ms Braverman’s first spell as Home Secretary as “disastrous” and accused her of trying to defend “cruelty towards the most desperate of people”.
He added: “Doesn’t she need to take a look in the mirror to see who is a threat to national security and accept she’s totally unfit for the job?”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper earlier said decision-making for cases of migrants has “collapsed” and raised allegations that Ms Braverman was warned by officials and other ministers that she was “acting outside the law by failing to provide alternative accommodation”.
The Labour MP also said 4,000 people are on the site at Manston designed to accommodate 1,600, adding: “Conditions have been described as inhumane with risks of fire, disorder and infection.
“There are confirmed diphtheria outbreaks, reports of scabies and MSRA outbreaks, also reports of outbreaks of violence and untrained staff.”
SNP home affairs spokesman Stuart McDonald said: “Responsibility for the disaster and disfunction at Manston and the unlawful detention conditions there lies squarely with the Home Secretary herself and her predecessors.”