Simon Walker, the director general of the Institute of Directors (IoD), joined opposition parties and charities in accusing Mrs May of “turning away the world’s best talent” with her inflammatory language which yesterday was cheered by Tory members.
Mrs May, who once warned the Conservatives they had turned into the “nasty party”, used her speech to ditch the UK’s policy on offering asylum, promising to deport refugees if their home countries become safe by the time their temporary leave to remain in Britain ends, in a process described as “safe return reviews”.
In addition, those who have travelled through safe countries such as the thousands crossing Europe from the Middle East and North Africa will be given the “minimum stay of protection” and “no automatic right” to live in the UK.
The Home Secretary also promised to take “retaliatory measures” against countries which refuse to accept people being deported from the UK by denying their nationality and use “alternative documentation” which exists for anyone who first entered the UK on a genuine visa to prove a deportee’s identity.
Mrs May said Britain would end the “absurdity” of EU nationals claiming asylum, alleging that the relatively small number of 551 claims in the last five years has cost taxpayers £4 million.
She added the measures would allow Britain to focus on being a “beacon of hope” to vulnerable people in genuine need of sanctuary, telling delegates: “There are people who need our help, and there are people who are abusing our goodwill – and I know whose side I’m on.”
She added: “We need to distinguish carefully between economic migrants and genuine refugees. We have to be a country in control, stricter with people who try to abuse the system so that our help is not denied to those who need it.”
Mr Walker accused her of “pandering to anti-immigration sentiment”, adding: “It is yet another example of the Home Secretary turning away the world’s best and brightest, putting internal party politics ahead of the country, and helping our competitor economies instead of our own.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale described it as “a contemptuous, cynical and clumsy speech.”
SNP international development minister Humza Yousaf said: “Contrary to the Home Secretary’s unhelpful comments, migrants are not a drain on our society.”