A photo of Priti Patel overseeing a National Crime Agency operation in London has been branded “disgraceful” by people on social media, with Good Morning Britain host Adil Ray leading the condemnation.
The home secretary was on the scene during an NCA swoop in Woodford Green and Bushwood, east London, on Wednesday.
The operation involved more than 130 officers and follows an investigation, codenamed Operation Symbolry, into an organised crime group using a network of predominantly Romanian lorries to smuggle people between France and the UK.
Speaking at the scene, Patel said people smugglers are “treating innocent lives as a commodity and lining their pockets while people are dying”.
It comes after the home secretary announced plans to crack down on people smuggling with maximum life sentences for those involved in the crime, and moved to deny asylum to migrants who have travelled through a “safe” country such as France to reach the UK.
But pictures released shortly after the raids have provoked outrage on social media.
Adil Ray commented that he couldn’t quite believe how the daughter of an immigrant could pose for photos like this, while others branded the “dehumanising scenes” as “disgraceful”.
Priti Patel’s parents & mine were told to leave Uganda & Kenya, in some cases to save their lives. After much protest (at one point they wanted to dump them on the Falklands) UK let them in. To think years later a daughter of that generation would pose for a photo opp like this. pic.twitter.com/v3I9PpRQDx— Adil Ray OBE 💙 (@adilray) May 20, 2021
I hate this so much. A tendency towards fascism is always bubbling away in certain sections of the British psyche, and vicious dullards like Priti Patel are determined to bring it to the fore. Disgraceful, shameful and dehumanising scenes. https://t.co/4rbAr5XtdX— 💀 (@IanMcQuaid) May 20, 2021
The pictures have come to light after a separate Met Police operation in Tooting sparked outrage in the community.
Dr Rosenna Allin-Khan, the Labour MP, said police were “checking immigration status under the guise of ‘Covid compliance’” after delivery drivers were stopped by immigration officers.
She expressed disagreement with police time being used to “prop-up Home Office hostile environment policies”, saying:
“This looks like racial profiling and I am concerned that under the Equalities Act 2010, this may amount to indirect discrimination due to its disproportionate impact on ethnic minority groups.
“If it’s not unlawful, then it’s definitely immoral.”