The Sunday Express has learnt that Home Secretary Priti Patel has been briefed about the threat by intelligence and security chiefs as the UK prepares to welcome thousands of refugees. The security threat has held up refugees from being allowed into the UK because it has prevented checks from being relaxed to speed things up.
A source close to the Home Secretary said: “’We have to be very vigilant, that Russia will use any opportunity to take advantage of this crisis. The priority of the HO will always be to maintain the safety of British nationals.”
Ms Patel referenced the problem in her speech at the Conservsative Spring Conference in Blackpool, reminding the audience that the Russian President ordered the use of a nerve agent attack in Salisbury just four years ago.
She said: “Some of you may have noticed the calls for me to suspend national security processes on people, have grown louder in recent week.
“I have been asked why we couldn’t suspend security checks on people escaping Putin’s war. Times of conflict emphasise our need to remain watchful.”
She went on: “I know from the briefings I receive from the Intelligence and Security Services, that instability around the world brings with it greater threats. I sign warrants daily from our security and intelligence agencies relating to the extreme danger this country faces from all kinds of terrorism, serious organised crime, and state threats.
“Russia has a history of covert, hostile activity. I am afraid it is naïve and misguided to think that only men can be covert operatives or that refugee flows would not be subjected to exploitation.
“There are those who would come to this country who mean us harm, and who plot to strike at our way of life. The processes that we have put in place closely follow the advice of our intelligence and security services. They mean we can help Ukrainians in need, without making our country less safe.”
She warned that attacks on the UK are not just through conventional military means but can take other forms.
She said: “State threats and terrorism take many forms. They thrive on indifference and appeasement. And we are now seeing them supplemented by new types of targeted biological, chemical, cyber warfare, ransomware, and online threats.
“Our duty is to safeguard our Country’s interests and we will never take our eye off the ball when it comes to the safety and security of our country.”
The admission comes as it emerged that there has been a fight behind the scenes in Cabinet between ministers who wanted to drop security measures in regard to Ukraine refugees and Ms Patel arguing that security is under threat because of Putin exploiting the situation.
One long term ally of the Home Secretary said: ‘What we have seen during this period is a split between those who wish to play to the press and those who want to lead.
‘’It is easy to say things that impress people, doing the right thing is a much harder undertaking.
‘’What Priti Patel has done is show that her priority is to prevent terrorists from entering the UK.”
The advisor added: “The UK is taking the most vulnerable people in and ensuring that those who host refugees are supported.
‘’There has been clear intelligence that the approach some would take, would lead to security issues for the UK – the HS has been clear that this will not happen on her watch.”