Fan Fury over Priti Patel Interview at Brentford Stadium

Home Secretary defends Rwanda policy from inside the ground

Priti Patel at the GTech Community Stadium. Picture: Sky News/Facebook


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Brentford Football Club supporters’ groups have reacted with fury after the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, gave an interview defending the government’s asylum policy from inside their club’s stadium.

The Premier League had asked the club to host the interview this Thursday (18 August). It was originally intended to be about security at football matches but the Minister responded to questions about the planned deportation to Rwanda of asylum seekers.

When questions were asked about documents that had emerged showing that officials in the Foreign Office had raised concerns about the policy due to torture and killings in the country, she responded that it was a ‘safe’ destination to send people.

This is despite a warning from the UK High Commissioner last year that the Rwandan government had recruited refugees to fight against neighbouring countries.

In response Ms Patel said, "Well, actually, Rwanda is a safe country. All our work has shown that and the government-to-government work has shown that too.

"You are of course referring to comments made from officials in a different government department, but of course, it's the Home Office that has led the Economic Development Migration Partnership, which is our resettlement partnership to Rwanda.”

Supporters' group Bees United issued a statement saying, ‘Brentford FC was asked by the Premier League to host a visit yesterday by the Home Secretary during which she would talk to the media about public order in football. The Club agreed but should have anticipated that the media would ask about wider political issues such as government policy towards asylum seekers. Brentford’s stadium thus became the background for political views which are not universally shared by fans. BU are clear that politicians who visit our stadium are welcome to talk about football issues but not to use it as a platform for their other views. We hope the Club will learn from this and review their press planning to ensure all events are in keeping with our values’.

Club fan message boards were also filled with condemnation of the move and there were calls for Brentford FC to distance itself from the Home Secretary’s comments.

The club has previously been supportive of refugees and last year took part in Amnesty International’s Football Welcomes campaign which celebrates the contribution of players from a refugee background.

Now in its fifth year, Football Welcomes celebrates the contribution players from a refugee background make to the game, and highlights the role football can play in bringing people together and creating more welcoming communities for refugees.

Brentford FC issued a statement saying, "Yesterday, the Home Secretary, her officials and the Metropolitan Police, visited Brentford FC following a request from them and the Premier League to do so.

"The sole purpose of the visit was to see our new safe standing sections and to discuss our efforts to create and maintain a safe environment on matchdays.

"These are two very important issues to us, which heavily rely on Government and legislative support.

"Media activities on the day were hosted by the Home Office. While she was at the stadium, the Home Secretary was asked about a number of other matters that were entirely separate to the purpose of her visit."

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August 19, 2022


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