The UK immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, has suggested that visitors to the country will be removed if they incite antisemitism, even if their conduct falls “below the criminal standard”.
Jenrick said he could not get into “specific cases” of visa-holders whose conduct is being reviewed, saying there was a “legal process that must be followed properly”, but noted some people had been seen “glorifying” terror activities and “praising Hamas”.
It comes after he told the Commons on Tuesday that the process of revoking visas and expelling foreign nationals who spread “hate and division” had already begun “in a small number of cases”.
Asked on Times Radio whether someone waving a Palestinian flag at a demonstration could have their visa revoked, Jenrick said: “No, we believe in freedom of speech.
“But I disagree with your premise that … somebody who is here as a visitor to the UK has the right to be antisemitic, to threaten British communities and can stay unless that is of criminal standard.
“I think there is conduct which is below the criminal standard but which is wrong, would be accepted as wrong by most reasonable people.
“If those people are not British citizens, they are just visitors to our country enjoying the privileges of living here, being among fellow British people, then I’m afraid their visas will be revoked and they should leave the country.”
He added: “We’ve all seen instances of people glorifying, valorising terrorist activities – we’ve seen people holding deeply antisemitic banners, being interviewed on the media and praising Hamas.
“That is disgusting behaviour. I don’t want to see that on our streets. And if that person is just a visitor to our country, they should not be doing that.
“I can’t look a British Jewish person in the eye as immigration minister and say I’ve allowed somebody to remain at our pleasure in this country, who is conducting themselves in that manner – that is wrong.
“If you come to this country, you abide by British values.”
Jenrick revealed that the process of revoking visas and expelling foreign nationals who spread “hate and division” had already begun on Tuesday after Tory MP Jill Mortimer asked for reassurance whether any asylum seeker or person on a visa found to be “breaking our laws and inciting racial hatred and violence … will be removed”.
The minister replied: “I’ve been very clear that people who spread hate and division in our country have no right to be here and so those individuals who are foreign nationals who have a visa, which is a privilege, not an entitlement, and conduct themselves in that manner, fall below the standard we expect in our country, will find that visa revoked, and they will be expelled.
“We have already begun that process in a small number of cases. And I have written to all chief constables across England and Wales, inviting them to bring to our attention at the Home Office any examples that we should consider.”
He said he was “not going to comment directly” on remarks made by UN secretary general, António Guterres, that the 7 October terrorist attacks did not happen in a vacuum but said no comparison should be made between Israel and Hamas.
Guterres on Tuesday said the 7 October attacks by Hamas were “appalling” but added “The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation.”
Speaking on Sky News, Jenrick said: “I don’t think you should be comparing Israel to Hamas and neither should you be suggesting in any way that innocent Israeli civilians are to blame or have any culpability for what happened.”