BRITISH home secretary Priti Patel has slammed the critics of her government’s controversial immigration deal with Rwanda and the BBC’s “xenophobic” overtones in reporting the matter.
She was “taken aback” by the tone of BBC journalists’ references to Rwanda after the agreement with the African country was announced, she told The Telegraph.
She said the corporation’s “undercurrent” was similar to the views expressed by opposition parties.
“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”.
“There are always going to be critics, and we live in a free country,” she said in an interview with the newspaper published on Saturday (23).
According to documents published by the government last week, Patel overruled reservations from officials about her plan to send thousands of asylum seekers to Rwanda.
The plan, unveiled by prime minister Boris Johnson, seeks to act as a deterrent to migrants who make illegal boat crossings to Britain from France.
It has drawn heavy criticism from political opponents and campaigners.
In an exchange of letters with Patel, the top official in the Home Office highlighted uncertainty over the scheme’s value to the taxpayer.
The government has said it would contribute an initial £120 million to the scheme.
“I do not believe sufficient evidence can be obtained to demonstrate that the policy will have a deterrent effect significant enough to make the policy value for money,” Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft said.
Patel acknowledged the concerns but stated her belief that without taking action to stop the crossings, both the monetary costs and the loss of life among those who attempt to navigate the busy shipping channel would rise.
“It would therefore be imprudent in my view, as home secretary, to allow the absence of quantifiable and dynamic modelling … to delay delivery of a policy that we believe will reduce illegal migration, save lives, and ultimately break the business model of the smuggling gangs,” she wrote.
Last year, more than 28,000 migrants and refugees made the crossing from mainland Europe to Britain, a fraction of the number arriving in other European countries, but enough to keep immigration a politically sensitive topic among some voters.