Priti Patel says she has ‘a lot of compassion and cares deeply about people’

Home secretary Priti Patel has claimed she has “a lot of compassion” and “cares deeply about people” as she defended her department’s handling of a series of controversies.

The Home Office has come under fire over the Windrush scandal and its “hostile environment” policy aimed at increasing the removal of asylum seekers and foreign-born criminals.

But Ms Patel rejected the idea of an uncaring department, saying: “It’s an incredible organisation, it really is.”

Speaking to The House magazine ahead of the Conservative Party’s conference in Manchester, the cabinet minister said she did not “relate” to the idea of a hostile Home Office.

“For people that know me, they know that I care deeply about people and I have a lot of compassion,” Ms Patel said – before claiming she “always put names and faces first”.

The home secretary said: “I would mention Windrush, the work that I have led in terms of Windrush compensation, overhauling the scheme, setting up stakeholder groups, putting people first, treating people and thinking of people rather than just cases.”

Ms Patel added: “For too long this has been a case-working organisation, and I always put names and faces first.”

Around £1.5m was paid out to victims of the Windrush scandal, which saw Britons classed as illegal immigrants, the latest figures show. But two of the victims launched legal proceedings over delays in their compensation last month.

Ms Patel has also come under fire over the deportation of foreign-born criminals, described by human rights groups as “inhumane”, and the housing of asylum seekers in ex-Army barracks found not to be suitable for human habitation by Public Health England.

The home secretary also defended the UK Nationality and Borders Bill, currently moving through the Commons, which aims to rapidly remove asylum seekers who come to Britain via “illegal” routes such as the English Channel.

Asked if the Home Office is still considering a plan to push back migrant boats in the Channel towards France, Ms Patel said: “Everything we do is legal and within the law.

“I rule nothing out in terms of stopping the boats and saving lives, because by the time people are in the water, their lives are at risk.”

The home secretary could not say whether the first group of Afghans refugees coming to the UK through the government’s resettlement scheme after fleeing Taliban would be given a home before Christmas.

Challenged on whether some Afghans will still be in hotels by Christmas, she said: “I don’t know – it’s for local government. It’s for them to work with the resettlement team to bring that together.”

The full interview with Ms Patel runs in The House magazine out on 2 October, when the Tory conference also kicks off in Manchester.

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