Home Office staff have threatened a mutiny over Priti Patel’s plans to ship refugees to Rwanda, with one drawing comparisons to working for the Third Reich, it has emerged.
In comments on an internal online noticeboard, employees expressed “deep shame” at the multi-million pound deal the UK has signed with the East African nation, describing the plan to send asylum seekers 4,000 miles away to have their asylum claims processed as “totally unethical”.
One anonymous civil servant said in the comments seen by Email+: “Do we have a responsibility to not just leave, but to organize and resist? We cannot simply wash our hands and walk away.”
Another employee made a reference to the post-war Nazi trials at Nuremberg, writing: “The words ‘I was only obeying orders’ are echoing down through history to me and making me queasy.”
A third member of staff 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?”
Another said they were now afraid of telling people they worked for the Home Office, saying: “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.”
Another employee 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.”
Another stated: “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.”
Describing it as “one of the darkest moments for the Home Office”, another civil servant said the plans were “making [them] reconsider [their] position”.
The Home Office has not disputed the reports. The comments will reportedly be put to the Home Office permanent secretary, Matthew Rycroft, during an online group call for staff on Thursday.
The agreement, which the government says will see thousands of asylum seekers who arrived in Britain after traveling through safe countries deported to have their claims processed by Rwanda, has prompted a flurry of criticism since it was announced last Thursday.
It has been condemned by high profile figures including the UNHCR, which said it was “unacceptable” and a breach of international law, and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who described the plan as “ungodly”.
Former prime minister and home secretary Theresa May led a barrage of criticism of her own government’s deal to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, questioning the “legality, practicality and efficacy” of the policy.
Andrew Mitchell, the former international development secretary, also raised “serious concerns” that the policy “simply will not work” and questioned Ms Patel on the price of the scheme.
A Home Office spokesperson, said the department was “committed to constructive and open conversations with staff on our policies”.
They added: “However, personal attacks are unacceptable and we will remove comments from our channels that are disrespectful, break our guidelines or contravene the Civil Service values of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.