Board President to press for meeting with Priti Patel over Rwanda asylum policy
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Board President to press for meeting with Priti Patel over Rwanda asylum policy

Marie Van Der Zyl confirms she will alert the Board's executive of wish to meet Home Secretary after her organisation's position on the issue is criticised at Sunday's plenary

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Board of Deputies President Marie Van Der Zyl has confirmed she will press for a meeting with the Home Secretary to raise concerns over the Government’s Rwanda asylum policy.

Her announcement came after a succession of Deputies questioned the Board’s attempt to take a neutral stance on the issue at Sunday’s June meeting of the communal organisation.

After initially expressing her own personal view that the Rwanda policy was “unconscionable”, Van Der Zyl told the Deputies the Board had yet to ask for any meeting with Priti Patel because of the communal organisation’s policy of neutrality.

But she was pressed by both new Union of Jewish Students president Joel Rosen and Amos Schonfield, Masorti Judaism’sDeputy, to change this stance in response to the much criticised forced deportation attempts.

Rosen called for the Board to request a meeting with the Home Office over what he said was the government’s “indefensible Rwanda policy” with the Home Office.

Schonfield said it was vital that the Board did not appear to be vocal on the issue of Ukrainian refugees but then silent on attempts to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.

He questioned also how the policy of neutrality had been formulated.

Denise Lester, the South Hampstead Synagogue Deputy, suggested the Board should think carefully about seeking meetings with the “incredibly busy” Home Secretary.

While Paul Edlin, of the Glasgow Jewish Rep Council, suggested countering antisemitism should remain a “priority” for the community.

The Board’s President stressed she had made a personal statement on the issue, but then revealed she wished to alert her executive of her decision to request a meeting with the Home Secretary.

She said:”We are all very grateful to the Conservative government…they’ve been very good to the Jewish community in recent years, and they have been a friend to Israel.

“But this, in my view is an unconscionable policy to send refugees to such a place.

“And it bothers many people also, I think, in the Conservative Party.

“So I think that everyone has heard what you’ve all got to say today.

“On my part, I’m going to take this to the executive and I will put to the executive that I do want to ask for a meeting with the Home Secretary.”

Last week the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) blocked the first planned flight to Rwanda on Tuesday night.

But Patel later doubled down on the government’s rationale behind the controversial scheme that would see cross-Channel migrants deported to Rwanda, where their asylum claims would be processed offshore.

“It is no use pretending they are fleeing persecution when they are travelling from a safe country,” she said.

“Our capacity to help is not infinite and public support for the asylum system will be fatally undermined if we do not act,”

Patel added. “The critics of the Rwanda Partnership have no alternative proposal to deal with uncontrolled immigration.”

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