The British home secretary, a top government minister, on Friday refused to apologize to a Holocaust survivor who criticized her anti-immigration rhetoric.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has described immigration into the UK as an “invasion.”
Survivor Joan Salter, 83, said the language was similar to Nazi rhetoric in an exchange with Braverman while the lawmaker was meeting constituents.
“In 1943, I was forced to flee my birthplace in Belgium and went across war-torn Europe and dangerous seas until I finally was able to come to the UK in 1947,” Salter said after introducing herself as a child survivor of the genocide.
“When I hear you using words against refugees like ‘swarms’ and an ‘invasion,’ I am reminded of the language used to dehumanize and justify the murder of my family and millions of others,” she said. “Why do you find the need to use that kind of language?”
Braverman thanked her for the question and said she “shared a huge amount of concern and sympathy” for migrants, highlighting that her own parents were not born in the UK.
She maintained that illegal immigration was a major problem, though.
“There is a huge problem that we have right now when it comes to illegal migration, the scale of which we have not known before,” she said. “I won’t apologize for the language that I’ve used to demonstrate the scale of the problem,” Braverman said.
“I will not shy away from saying we have a problem with people exploiting our generosity, breaking our laws and undermining our system,” she said.
Braverman has focused on tackling illegal immigration while in office, saying her role was “about stopping the invasion on our southern coast.”
The Guardian noted that she has not used the word “swarm” to describe migrants, although other politicians have.
The Home Office said video of Braverman’s exchange with Salter had been edited and misrepresented the situation, and had asked the organization that posted the footage to take it down.
Salter has been recognized by the British government for her Holocaust education work.