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Opinion
Adrian Wooldridge

Priti Patel Echoes the Britain that Says ‘No!’

Britain’s hardline home secretary speaks for a chunk of the country that espouses immigrant ambition but not new immigrants.

Patel in 2019.

Patel in 2019.

Photographer: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Europe

In the late 1960s, smelling genocide in the air, Sushil and Anjana Patel fled Uganda for the U.K. They thrived in their new country, establishing a chain of news agents in London and Hertfordshire, while Idi Amin slaughtered their fellow Gujaratis back home. Today their daughter is the biggest obstacle to Ukrainians seeking refuge in Britain from Vladimir Putin’s merciless war machine.  

Priti Patel’s Home Office has almost gone out of its way to make life difficult for Ukrainian asylum seekers, limiting visas to refugees with family members in Britain, demanding fiddly documentation — have you tried downloading your photo onto a form while fleeing invaders? — claiming that it had established a visa processing center in Calais when in fact the nearest one was 70 miles away in Lille. While Germany took in tens of thousands of refugees in the first fortnight after the invasion — and next-door Poland took in more than a million — Britain only managed 4,000. A cartoon on the cover of the normally euroskeptic  Spectator magazine summed up the situation: A line of European leaders receives Ukrainian refugees with welcome signs in various languages, while Patel greets them with a long-document labeled “criteria.”