Government hits back at Ben & Jerry’s over Priti Patel migrant Channel crossings rebuke
A surprise public upbraiding of the Government’s approach to migrant Channel crossings by Ben & Jerry’s has garnered a frosty response from the Home Office.
The Unilever-owned ice cream brand initiated a cold war against the Conservative Party on Thursday evening when it published a series of tweets criticising the UK’s “lack of humanity” for migrants risking their lives to cross the English Channel in hopes of gaining asylum here.
Earlier that day Boris Johnson had announced his intention to change asylum laws to help deter migrants from crossing the Channel using dinghies and fishing boats and to make it easier to send them back to France.
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More than 4,000 people have reached the UK after crossing the English Channel in small boats so far this year. Last Friday Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was “shameful” that 235 migrants had crossed the Channel by boat the previous day, in a record high for crossings in a single day.
“The number of illegal small boat crossings is appalling and unacceptably high,” Ms Patel said.
‘People cannot be illegal’
Following Mr Johnson’s pledge to “work with our French friends” to “stop [migrants] getting over the Channel”, a string of posts published on the Ben & Jerry’s Twitter account condemned the Government’s approach.
Hey @PritiPatel we think the real crisis is our lack of humanity for people fleeing war, climate change and torture. We pulled together a thread for you..
— Ben & Jerry’s UK (@benandjerrysUK) August 11, 2020
Addressing the Home Secretary directly, the first message read: “Hey @PritiPatel we think the real crisis is our lack of humanity for people fleeing war, climate change and torture.”
A second post continued: “People wouldn’t make dangerous journeys if they had any other choice. The UK hasn’t resettled any refugees since March, but wars and violence continue. What we need is more safe and legal route.”
The ice cream maker added: “People cannot be illegal. And, it is enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention that crossing a border ‘illegally’ should not impact your asylum claim.
“’Stronger’ borders aren’t the answer and only puts more lives at risk… Let’s remember we’re all human and have the same rights to life regardless of the country we happen to have been born in.”
It added: “People cannot be illegal.”
The posts attracted tens of thousands of likes from members of the public but some have accused the firm – which is owned by one of the world’s largest fast-moving consumer goods companies – of virtue signalling, while ministers have poured scorn on “junk food” purveyors for inserting itself into the political debate.
Can I have a large scoop of statistically inaccurate virtue signalling with my grossly overpriced ice cream please. https://t.co/rkZFN9EO5y
— James Cleverly (@JamesCleverly) August 11, 2020
Responding to Ben & Jerry’s on Twitter, Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said: “Can I have a large scoop of statistically inaccurate virtue signalling with my grossly overpriced ice cream please?”
A Home Office source told the BBC: “Priti is working day and night to bring an end to these small boat crossings, which are facilitated by international criminal gangs and are rightly of serious concern to the British people.
“If that means upsetting the social media team for a brand of overpriced junk food, then so be it.”