"it didn’t feel that comfortable."
Priti Patel has revealed that she felt “uncomfortable” as a BAME person when she joined the Home Office in the wake of the Windrush scandal.
Patel became the UK’s first female home secretary from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background in July 2019 following the resignation of Amber Rudd.
Appearing before the House of Lords home affairs and justice committee, Patel said she was made home secretary as the department was preparing evidence for Wendy Williams’s Windrush Lessons Learned Review of the scandal.
She said: “If I think about Windrush, obviously I walked into a department just as the Lessons Learned report was due to come out.
“I have my own views quite frankly.
“I’m an ethnic minority home secretary coming into a department where it didn’t feel that comfortable.”
Patel explained that she has had “a lot of pushback” while trying to change the culture of the Home Office, which could take years.
She added: “This is a very, very long haul.”
At the same hearing, she claimed that some migrants are attracted to the UK by the prospect of being housed in hotels.
Her comments drew criticism.
Priti Patel said: “We have ended up having to put people into hotel accommodation and I’m afraid, I think it’s pretty suboptimal.
“It is counterproductive; I think it has also acted as a pull factor for people to come to the country illegally, thinking that they’re going to end up in hotels.”
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said Patel’s comments bore “little relation to reality”.
He said: “Rather than people being attracted by the idea of living in a hotel, the problems people are experiencing in their lengthy stays in temporary accommodation have been well documented.”
When questioned by Labour peer Shami Chakrabarti, Patel insisted that there is a “legal basis” for turning around small boats at sea.
“None of this is illegal. So let me just emphasise that, none of this is illegal at all.”
“We don’t want to see people dying at sea. We want to stop people drowning at sea. I can’t emphasise this enough.”
Senior QCs have said that Patel’s new borders bill is controversial as it breaches international and domestic law in at least 10 different ways.
Referring to a man who is said to have gone missing in the sea off the coast of Harwich, Essex, Patel said:
“Only yesterday there was a loss of life in the Channel.”