Charities clash with the government over immigration plans

25 Mar 2021 News

Priti Patel

CC, Policy Exchange

Charities have criticised the government after being dragged into a row over immigration plans.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) accused home secretary Priti Patel of “a pattern of failing to engage with civil society”.

Patel launched the government’s new immigration policies in the House of Commons on Wednesday, and attacked the "type of language" used by some charities in opposing the plans.


Minnie Rahman, campaign director at JCWI, said: “Patel's latest attack on migrants rights charities is alarming.

“A pattern of failing to engage with civil society, ignoring expert advice, and branding migrants who have every right to be here ‘illegal’ was the exact set of conditions that led to the Windrush scandal.

“It is high time the home secretary learned lessons from the scandal, and started listening to constructive critique, particularly from migrants, refugees, and those of us who work with them everyday.

“Perhaps then we would see more workable, compassionate and evidence-based policymaking as a result.”

Refused to meet

The criticism by JCWI comes after another charity, Refugee Action, said that Patel had refused to meet with civil society to discuss her plans.

Stephen Hale, then the chief executive of Refugee Action, said on Twitter earlier this year that “the home secretary has not met a refugee charity since [her] appointment in December 2019.

“She has made derogatory comments about ‘do gooders’. Leadership in a pandemic has to be better than this”.

Minister criticises the British Red Cross

Mike Adamson, the chief executive of the British Red Cross, yesterday said that the Home Secretary's immigration plans, which would make some refugees vulnerable to deportation despite fears for their safety, were "inhumane".

Asked about the comment, Patel told ITV: "I think many of those organisations should think carefully about our proposals and also the type of language they themselves use, because we want to save lives and we want to work with partnership organisations in developing safe and legal routes [for refugees to come to the UK].

"That is not just the right thing to do that is a responsible thing to do as a country that welcomes refugees fleeing persecution."

The British Red Cross defended itself, saying that the it “must raise” issues of concern.

Zoe Abrams, executive director of strategy, communications and advocacy at the charity, said: “As part of the world’s largest humanitarian network, the British Red Cross must bear witness to the experiences and challenges that people in crisis face in the UK and overseas.

"Alongside supporting people through our front-line services, we advocate for systemic change in order to have the biggest possible positive impact for those we exist to serve.

“We take an evidence-based, insight-led approach based on our work with people with lived-experience to put forward positive solutions.

“We seek to be a constructive partner to government and others on a range of issues, from communities struggling to adapt to the daily impacts of climate change, vulnerable people living through the harsh realities of the pandemic, or those who have been displaced from their homes and are seeking refuge in countries including our own.

“We are the UK’s biggest independent provider of services to refugees and in recent weeks, we have been sharing our views on the issue of asylum reform.

“We support the need for reform but do have serious concerns about the impact of some changes proposed and so must both raise this and share our alternative solutions.”

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