Priti Patel has been accused of fanning the flames of far-right racism and violence in the same way disgraced Donald Trump has done in the US.
Four charities have written to the Home Secretary warning that her words have “harmful consequences” – the day after she said the US President’s words “directly led” to violence.
They say they’ve had to ramp up security in recent weeks amid heightened threats from racists and far-right groups.
This week Ms Patel condemned Trump’s incitement of supporters following Wednesday’s rioting at the Capitol building in Washington DC.
But organisations have called on her to look at what’s happening closer to home.
The letter, signed by Freedom from Torture, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), Hope Not Hate and Detention Action says: “In response to the disturbing events in Washington this week, you noted that President Trump’s words of incitement to his far right supporters “directly led” to the looting and violence which resulted in four deaths and has further deepened divisions in the country.
“Your condemnation is welcome. We note, however, the same direct connection between words and deeds in the UK context also.
“This includes language that you and your colleagues have used, with harmful consequences.”
The four organisations wrote: “We have seen at close quarters how far-right hate against asylum seekers has escalated.
“We believe this is a direct response to a misleading and dangerous government narrative that ignores the torture and persecution that so many of those arriving across the Channel have fled.”
The charities added they have “become targets for vicious far right online hate”, forcing them to bring in new procedures to protect staff.
Campaigner Kolbassia Haoussou, who fled his native Chad after being tortured, said: “I don’t see much difference between what the UK government says and the language of Donald Trump.
“The way they talk about people who are risking their lives to escape persecution, they’re inciting the far right, who are doing things like going to Dover and trying to people crossing.
“That’s dangerous, and it was inspired by the rhetoric of the government.”
Mr Haoussou, who was awarded an MBE in last year’s New Year’s Honours List after co-founding the Survivors Speak Out network for people who escaped torture, said the far right is getting stronger.
He added he is shocked by the lack of condemnation from the government.
“Now we’re really concerned about publicly speaking about the plight of refugees, we don’t know who’s around your neighbourhood, they know who you are but you don’t know them”, he said.
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In September Ms Patel came under fire for bragging about removing asylum seekers, while targeting lawyers who offered them support.
She wrote: “Today we removed people who came here via small boat.
“They had previously claimed asylum elsewhere and had no legal right to be in the UK. Removals continue to be frustrated by activist lawyers, but I will not let up until this route is unviable.”
In the letter to the Home Secretary, the four charities wrote: “Government rhetoric falsely suggests that asylum seekers’ travel routes can invalidate their claims for protection, and denounces lawyers for doing what the law requires of them.”
The letter added that the government has “remained silent” when attacks on asylum seekers occur.
In the aftermath of Ms Patel’s tweet, solicitors at a London law firm which provides support for asylum seekers were attacked with a knife.
The letter to the Home Secretary states: “Days after you claimed ‘activist lawyers’ were frustrating removals, solicitors at the Duncan Lewis law firm were subject to a knife attack.
“The prosecution said that the alleged attacker planned to place flags ‘so that like-minded people would take action’.”
The organisations have called on the government to bring in measures to tackle far-right extremism, and stop using inflammatory language when talking about asylum seekers.