Priti Patel has vowed to push ahead with the forced removal of migrants in Scotland, as she accused the SNP of attempting to “thwart the safety and security of the British public”.
The home secretary has faced calls from some Scottish politicians to abandon the practice in the wake of a community protest in Glasgow two weeks ago that saw two men released from a Home Office van after being detained.
Lakhvir Singh and Sumit Sehdev were released by Border Force officials after a large crowd swarmed the vehicle and chanted “let them go, they are our neighbours” until the pair were set free under public safety grounds.
The Home Office said the Indian nationals were detained and later released on bail over “suspected immigration offences”, adding that appropriate legal protocol was followed.
A cross-party group of politicians from Glasgow, including first minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie, wrote to Ms Patel on Friday setting out their opposition to the raids.
1/ Today’s events were entirely down to @ukhomeoffice actions. @policescotland were in an invidious position – they do not assist in the removal of asylum seekers but do have a duty to protect public safety. They act independently of ministers, but I support this decision https://t.co/9SCNGa6tpy
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) May 13, 2021
The group said they “deeply oppose” the UK government’s immigration policies, which includes a pledge to speed up deportations for those who have entered the country by illegal means, and hit out at the timing of the Glasgow raid.
The letter states the politicians “do not support these raids at any time” but says the incident involving Mr Singh and Mr Sehdev was carried out at the “worst possible time” because Pollokshields is currently a coronavirus hotspot.
It added that it was “extremely distressing” for the diverse community in the area to witness the scene on Eid.
A sorry state of affairs
Speaking on Sky News on Sunday, Ms Patel claimed the concerns raised by the cross-party group amounted to the SNP wishing to abandon immigration controls.
She said: “Immigration is a reserved matter for the government here (at Westminster) and quite frankly it is pretty clear that when it comes to the nationalists in Scotland, they would much rather have an immigration policy of open borders, no checks when it comes to criminals coming to the UK and no border controls.
“I think actually Nicola Sturgeon’s comments also reflect the nationalist position when it comes to removing people that have no legal basis to be in the UK.”
Ms Patel added: “This is nothing to do with Eid at all.
“Immigration enforcement were absolutely doing their job in terms of removing people with no legal basis to be in the UK.
“I think it is a sorry state of affairs that we see the nationalists in Scotland basically trying to thwart the safety and security of the British public but also trying to prevent the British government from removing those with no legal basis to be in the United Kingdom.”
Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show whether there could be any change in approach in light of the public outcry, Ms Patel maintained her position.
‘We will continue to enforce our laws’
“The government has a responsibility to remove people from the United Kingdom with no legal status to be here and that includes some of the individuals from national offences and people that have brought great harm to our country,” she said.
“So, we will continue to enforce our laws and legislation to remove those with no legal basis for being the UK.”
Earlier this year, Ms Patel announced what she described as the “most significant overhaul of our asylum system in decades”.
She said the UK would introduce a “comprehensive, fair but firm” plan to deal with those entering the UK “illegally”.
Under the proposals, those entering with no legal right will no longer have the same entitlements as those who arrive legally, giving rise to concerns about asylum seekers being judged on how they arrive rather than on merit.
SNP Immigration spokeswoman Anne McLaughlin said Ms Patel had “demonstrated perfectly how the Tory government’s callous immigration policies stand in direct contrast with the open and welcoming environment that would be presented by an independent Scotland as a member of the European Union”.
“Scotland resoundly rejected the dawn raids of the Home Office last week, we will continue to urge the Tories to bring these to an end,” Ms McLaughlin said.
“We cannot trust the Tories with Scotland’s immigration policy, it is not fit for purpose for the needs of Scotland.
“The only way we can re-establish an immigration policy that fits with Scotland’s economy is as an independent country at the top table of the European Union.”