Priti Patel is reportedly facing an open revolt by Home Office staff over her Rwanda asylum plan, with some officials threatening to go on strike.
According to the Daily Mail, civil servants have branded the plan “totally unethical” – and asked the department’s top civil servant if they can refuse to work on the scheme.
A host of officials have voiced their opposition to the controversial scheme, with one anonymous civil servant drawing a comparison to serving under the Third Reich.
‘Organise and resist’
In a reference to the post-war Nazi trials at Nuremberg, they wrote: ‘The words “I was only obeying orders” are echoing down through history to me and making me queasy.’ They were later challenged by a colleague for making ‘absurd comparisons’.
One Home Office official asked whether staff have a moral obligation to “resist” the policy and actively campaign against it. “Do we have a responsibility to not just leave, but to organise and resist? We cannot simply wash our hands and walk away,” they wrote.
Another asked: “I find the Government proposal totally unethical and it impacts directly upon my workstream. As a civil servant can I refuse this type of work in contravention of my own ethics?”
In another online entry, a civil servant said: “I’ve worked for the Home Office for 20 years. There’s been some ups and downs in that time. But this announcement has made me feel deep shame and is the first time I am considering my position here and whether I need to get out of this department.”
‘I don’t feel safe’
Another wrote: “Can the permanent secretary and seniors give staff any advice on coping with our conscience with these sort of policies? I don’t feel safe telling people I work for the Home Office anymore and now just make up a non-descript role in another Government department when asked what I do for a job.”
One civil servant added: “Somewhere down the road, when the inevitable what went wrong with Rwandan outsourcing inquiry takes place, the Home Office cannot say that nobody spoke up at the time. We’re speaking up: this is a bad idea – don’t do it! I think a lot of staff feel this way.” A colleague responded: “Go on strike.”
It comes after Theresa May questioned the “legality, practicality and efficacy” of the Rwanda plan.
May, a former home secretary seen as the architect of the “hostile environment” that played a role in the Windrush scandal, said she did not support the Rwanda plans “on the grounds of legality, practicality and efficacy”.
She also demanded evidence that “this will not simply lead to an increase in the trafficking of women and children”.