Priti Patel insists Rwanda scheme not ‘one-sided’
The Home Secretary was “taken aback” by the tone of the corporation’s journalists’ references to the African country when she announced the move to send asylum seekers while their claims are processed. She hit out in a Sunday newspaper interview yesterday. But brushing aside the row, she said: “There are always going to be critics, and we live in a free country.”
The Government has been criticised by opposition MPs and senior clergy over the deal, which will allow migrants who arrive in the UK illegally to be sent to Rwanda so they can be considered for asylum and resettlement in the East African state.
Ms Patel insists the proposal will help to save lives by deterring people from making the journey across the Channel in small boats.
She said: “When you hear the critics start to stereotype, start to generalise, first of all that’s all very offensive. It’s deeply offensive, and it’s based on ignorance and prejudice, some of this, in my view.
“I could call them lazy and sloppy characterisations, but actually they’re not. I heard plenty of that not long after the announcement was made.
“I was in Parliament on Tuesday and there are undercurrents, if I may say so, of just sheer xenophobia, which I think is absolutely appalling.
“For others, who speak in disparaging, belittling and prejudicial, ignorant ways about a country that is our partner, quite frankly [it] is offensive, but I think also based on ignorance as well.”
Priti Patel has accused the BBC of an undercurrent of xenophobia
Asked about the BBC’s coverage of the issue, Ms Patel said: “I was questioned by them last week, in Rwanda. They had a travelling delegation with us. And I was quite taken aback just by the tone of references to Rwanda.
“I’ve already referenced the type of undercurrent, without actually understanding the details, and not even recognising the resettlement work of Rwanda first and foremost, the track record, and how recent that has been and how the EU has funded that as well, just even some of the details.
“From my perspective, it’s a shame. However, there are always going to be critics, and we live in a free country, in a democracy – not everybody’s going to like the approach of a Conservative government or a Conservative Home Secretary.”
While in Rwanda, Ms Patel was asked by a senior BBC journalist whether she was “really sure about this idea” in light of a deal Israel struck with Rwanda a few years ago which saw “many of those people ending up in the hands of people traffickers, murdered, raped, tortured, and enslaved”. She replied: “The answer is yes.”
A BBC spokesman said: “The government’s agreement to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda led to considerable public debate. Journalists from the BBC and other media were there to report the story and ask questions about the plan.”
The BBC said its journalists asked necessary questions about Rwanda
In the interview, Ms Patel also insisted the proposal was “unique.”
She said: “It’s not like a trade deal … We brought migration and economic development together for a migration and economic development partnership with Rwanda.
“It is so different to Australia’s model, for example, with how they have outsourced, so to speak. It’s not like-for-like, this is a very, very unique model.”
Earlier this month, the Government announced the new immigration policy which will see asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats sent for processing to Rwanda, where they will have the right to apply to live.
Following the £120 million economic deal being struck, cash for each removal is expected to follow.
Since 2012, asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat without valid visas have been subject to offshore processing in Nauru or on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
Offshore processing involves asylum seekers being detained and undergoing health, security and identity checks in Australia, before being forcibly transferred to Nauru or Papa New Guinea at the earliest possible opportunity and undergoing refugee status determination in those countries.
The Rwanda agreement has been criticised by senior Tories, Labour and church figures including the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
Conservative former prime minister Theresa May has questioned the “legality, practicality and efficacy” of the plan, and Mr Welby described it as “the opposite of the nature of God”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme the plan was unethical, unworkable and costly.
He added: “I also can’t help feeling, I’m afraid, that there is a bit of distraction tactics in this to stop everybody talking about the wrongdoing of the Prime Minister and the cost-of-living crisis.”
Ms Patel, however, said the deal was concerned with trying to “empower” asylum seekers.
“It’s always been a partnership based on resettlement, rebuilding lives. Investing in people,” she said.
Keir Starmer condemned the Rwanda plan as ‘unethical’
“We empower people through how we invest in them.”
Tory Party chairman Oliver Dowden said some of the criticism being levelled at the policy in the media had failed to “scrutinise what the alternative is” if action was not taken to tackle Channel crossings.
“The danger is that more lives will be lost and more criminal gangs will be enriched,” he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme.
Mr Dowden added: “I don’t think it’s xenophobic to criticise the Government’s plans.
“But I do think that, in terms of some of the media reaction to this, it is not accepting that a) action had to be taken and b) I think that the situation in Rwanda… Rwanda is a country that is growing rapidly and sometimes some of the views about Rwanda are outdated in that context.”
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