Priti Patel hits out at UK protesters preventing deportation of migrants

Home Secretary pledges ‘wholesale reform’ of Britain’s immigration system

Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel leaves the BBC headquarters after appearing on The Andrew Marr Show, in London, Britain, May 23, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
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Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel promised a "wholesale reform" of the UK's immigration system as she launched a scathing attack on activists for trying to stop deportations.

In a speech on Monday, Ms Patel pledged to overhaul immigration rules to attract more migrants that are skilled, crack down on people smugglers and tighten UK security through a "fully digital border".

She said it was a “fantasy” to suggest Britain was capable of providing a home to all those who need one, arguing that the “silent majority” was in favour of reducing the number of migrants allowed to settle.

“People across the country do not want their communities and way of life to change beyond recognition and yet acknowledging this is not to be anti-immigration,” Ms Patel told an online forum hosted by British Future.

"For those on the Left who have the audacity to think they own the issue of race and immigration, let me make one thing absolutely clear: they do not, nor do they speak for the silent majority who look to their government to establish appropriate controls on who comes to and settles in the UK."

Ms Patel said debate about migration numbers had long been "met with derision and scorn by some parts of the political class".

“Far too many politicians were indifferent to public opinion about this issue and too many were happy to assert that even raising the topic of immigration was racist,” she said.

“It is a fact that successive governments have failed to control migration and there are a whole number of reasons as to why.”

Speaking about plans for stricter enforcement of deportations, Ms Patel urged protesters to let immigration enforcement officers do their work.

Earlier this month, hundreds of demonstrators surrounded a Home Office van and prevented the removal of two Indian men from their Glasgow home.

“I have a message for those who seek to disrupt enforcement officers: they should think about whether their actions could be preventing murderers, rapists, high-harm offenders from being removed from our communities,” Ms Patel said.

“They should think long and hard about the victims of these crimes. We will not allow such disruption to prevail. Dismissing public concern about this state of affairs is monstrous; refusing to deal with it is a dereliction of duty. Enough is enough.”

Protestors surround an Immigration Enforcement van to stop it from departing after individuals were detained in Glasgow on May 13, 2021. / AFP / Andy Buchanan

Tightening immigration rules and securing borders were key promises of several leading politicians, including Ms Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who campaigned for leaving the EU in Britain's 2016 Brexit referendum.

Reiterating the Leave campaign’s slogan, the home secretary promised to “take back control” of the immigration system.

Her speech advocated longer maximum sentences for those found guilty of people smuggling and prioritising asylum seekers who use “safe and legal routes” to come to the UK.

She said asylum seekers should be settled in the first safe country they pass through. That would put further pressure on European nations such as France to accept asylum seekers, with record numbers of people crossing the English Channel in small boats.

The proposal was condemned by the UN’s refugee agency and by charities who said it would be a betrayal of Britain’s historic tradition of providing protection to people fleeing persecution.

Meanwhile, Ms Patel said plans for a digital border would make the country more secure.

A US-style Electronic Travel Authorisation would require visitors to the UK to obtain an electronic permit before travelling.

The Home Office said it would improve security, with automated checks preventing foreign criminals from travelling to the country while enabling the government to count who is coming in and going out.