The home secretary could have to battle walk-outs and transfer requests after criticism of a plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
In a bid to tackle Channel crossings, Priti Patel is heading an agreement with Rwanda that would send asylum seekers to the African nation.
However, the Telegraph newspaper has reported mass discontent among civil servants, after charities dubbed the plans “despicable.”
According to the newspaper’s report, unions representing Home Office workers have said mass walk-outs and transfer requests are looming on the horizon.
Patel had to issue a ministerial direction in order to force civil servants to sign off on the plan, the newspaper’s sources in the department confirmed.
Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA union, which has 19,000 members in the civil service and public service professions, said staff could leave en masse in response.
He explained: “As a civil servant, your choice is either to implement the Government’s policy or resign. The Home Office is often where the most controversial policies happen, but people will say that a line has been crossed.
“Their choice will be either to go along with it or leave the Home Office. It will be the case that a lot of people will leave either the department or the civil service.”
A Downing Street official has said plans to send migrants 5,000 miles to Rwanda could start earlier than previously suggested.
Andrew Griffith, director of Number 10’s policy unit, said the plan could be operational within “weeks.”
The Home Office had previously said the first flights would take place in the next few months.
“It doesn’t require new legislation, we think we can do this under the existing conventions,” Griffith said on Newsnight.
“Therefore, this should be possible to be implemented and operationalised in weeks or a small number of months. We are ready to go in that sense.”
Campaigners have said the plans are not ethical, as well as questioning the legality of the partnership too.
“This policy is despicable. It is an absolute grace. The people of this country have shown time and again we are warm and welcoming and we want to help refugees fleeing persecution,” Zoe Gardner, policy and advocacy manager for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) told BBC News.
“We simply cannot support sending vulnerable refugees who may be victims of torture and may have survived atrocities and war, and packing them off half way round the world to a poor country.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended the plans, saying they will save lives. He also vowed to take on “politically motivated lawyers” in the event of any legal challenges to the scheme.
Johnson said the scheme was “the humane and compassionate thing to do” to prevent deaths of migrants as they attempt to cross the Channel in small boats.
“We cannot have people continuing to die at sea, paying huge sums to evil people trackers who are simply exploiting their hopes and their ambitions. We need to encourage them to take the safe and legal route if they want to come to this country,” he added.