Fed-up Asda boss lashes out at Brexiteers for now complaining about migrant crisis

Conservative peer Lord Stuart Rose said the UK needed asylum seekers to be able to work due to labour shortages following Brexit. (BBC/Question Time)

The chairman of one of the UK's biggest supermarket chains has criticised Brexit voters for complaining about shortages of workers amid the migrant crisis.

The issue of immigration was thrust back into the spotlight this week following reports of shocking living conditions at the Manston migrant detention centre, including extreme overcrowding and outbreaks of diseases like scabies.

Forty thousand people crossed the Channel to the UK in small boats and dinghies this year alone.

Home secretary Suella Braverman has vowed to drive the number of asylum claims down by reviewing human rights laws and deporting asylum seekers overseas for processing.

Speaking during a debate about the current crisis on BBC's Question Time on Thursday, Conservative peer and Asda chairman Lord Stuart Rose said the "irony" is that the UK actually needs migrants to have the opportunity to work in the UK due to shortages of workers caused by Brexit.

"Many people who voted for Brexit are the people who are now complaining that they can't get their apples picked, or their cherries picked... " he said, visibly frustrated.

"Lots of people came to this country every summer, they did heavy work... maybe that's cheap labour, but we need the labour.

"We’ve now got a situation where we stopped those people coming in - and we're now giving six months visas to people... from [places like] Malaysia to pick fruit.

Read more: In pictures: What the 'shambolic' Unboxed 'Festival of Brexit' actually looked like

EDITORS NOTE: The PA Picture Desk has been unable to gain the necessary permission to photograph children under 16 on issues involving their welfare. This image has been provided unpixelated for customers to pixelate in their own style. A view of young children thought to be migrants inside the Manston immigration short-term holding facility located at the former Defence Fire Training and Development Centre in Thanet, Kent. Picture date: Wednesday November 2, 2022.
More than 4,000 people were held at Manston migrant detention centre which has a maximum capacity of 1,600. (PA)

"How does that work? How did we end up in this mess? It's crazy... but I'll shut up now.”

Rose said it was one of the "nonsenses" of the situation that migrants are currently being forced to stay in hotels at a cost of £7m a day to the taxpayer instead of being able to get a job.

He said: "There cannot be a way that you cannot say: 'Here is an identity card, go out and report every week and come back... go earn some money, give yourself some self respect, and add something value to the company to the community - and prove why you have a right to stay here.'"

He also interrupted host Fiona Bruce, claiming the Albanian prime minister was right when they said the UK was becoming a "madhouse" after the home secretary singled out Albanian migrants crossing the Channel.

"[That's] the last thing I'll say," he said.

The government has come under pressure from campaigners to allow asylum seekers to be able to work as their claims are processed, with Refugee Action claiming it is "common sense".

The crisis feeds into a wider discussion about how Britain manages to resolve the shortage of workers in key areas such as the NHS, construction, police, and prisons.

According to a report released by the Migration Observatory at Oxford University this week, while the causes of the UK's labour shortage are complex, but are likely to have been exacerbated by Brexit and the end of free movement.

Read more: 'Purely xenophobic': Crown Prince of Albania lashes out at Suella Braverman

Rose's remarks come after the prime minister on Wednesday acknowledged there is a “serious and escalating problem” after more than 4,000 people were held at the Manston migrant detention centre which has a maximum capacity of 1,600.

They were also left sleeping on the floor, with many there a month or more longer than legally allowed.

On Thursday night Braverman said it was a “complex and difficult situation” .

“Today I met with our expert teams at Dover and Manston who work tirelessly to save lives and protect the UK’s borders," said Braverman. “I saw first-hand how we’re working to reduce the number of people in Manston, support people there, and thank staff for all their efforts."

She added: “We need innovative solutions."

Watch: 'We don't know where to go': Migrant says he was removed from Manston immigration centre and left stranded in London