A Kent refugee action group has slammed the home secretary's comments that people including the suspected Liverpool bomber have exploited Britain’s “dysfunctional” asylum system to remain in the country.
Emad Al Swealmeen, 32, reportedly arrived in the UK from the Middle East in 2014 and had an application for asylum rejected the following year, but was still in the country.
Ms Patel, on a three-day visit to Washington, said the system was a “complete merry-go-round” with a “whole industry” devoted to defending the rights of individuals intent on causing harm.
According to reports, she told reporters on her flight to the US capital that the case showed why the government was right to reform the asylum system.
“The case in Liverpool was a complete reflection of how dysfunctional, how broken, the system has been in the past, and why I want to bring changes forward,” she was quoted as saying.
But now, Bridget Chapman from Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) says the politician's suggestion that people are "routinely gaming the system" is "ridiculous".
She believes the comments are an attempt to deflect growing criticism of her handling of the current crisis.
But she does concur that the asylum system is "dysfunctional", however blames Ms Patel for her "wrong-headed insistence on endless unworkable policies".
The KRAN representative said: "Analysis of Home Office data by the Refugee Council has just shown that the vast majority of people arriving in the UK to seek asylum come from countries where human rights abuses are rife.
The suggestion that people are routinely gaming the system is ridiculous since there is clearly a secure basis for their claims.
"This appears to be a deliberate attempt by the home secretary to deflect growing criticism of her handling of the current situation.
"In the past she made similar incendiary comments about 'activist lawyers' and we subsequently saw a far right attack on a solicitors' office in London.
"She now appears to be reprising those comments, and to be targeting the Church of England with similar claims."
Al Swealmeen died in the blast in a taxi outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital shortly before 11am on Remembrance Sunday.
He was a Christian convert and the reports said there was growing concern within the Home Office at the role on the Church of England in converting asylum seekers.
However a couple who took him in after his appeal against the asylum ruling was rejected insisted that he had been an “absolutely genuine” Christian with a “real passion for Jesus Christ”.
Ms Chapman continued: "It is true that the asylum system is dysfunctional but the blame for that lies firmly with the home secretary and her wrong-headed insistence on endless unworkable policies and performative tough talk.
"What is needed, now more than ever, is a grown-up and humanitarian approach that aims to give people a fair chance of accessing sanctuary within the UK.
"Currently we are a long way down the rankings in the number of people we accept and we need to step up to our responsibilities, not try to further inflame a situation that has been exacerbated by countless failed initiatives and endless sabre-rattling."
An Islamist plot is one line of inquiry being considered by police although investigators are keeping an open mind and the motivation is yet to be established.
Searches have been carried out at an address in Rutland Avenue, where detectives said Al Swealmeen was picked up by the taxi, and at a second property in Sutcliffe Street, where officers believe he previously lived.
'The suggestion that people are routinely gaming the system is ridiculous...'
Four men arrested under terrorism laws in the Kensington area of Liverpool – three aged 21, 26 and 29, who were held on Sunday, and a man aged 20 who was detained on Monday – have now been released from police custody following interviews.
Police continue to appeal for any information about the incident or the suspected attacker.
Meanwhile, senior governemnt officials were today called to a Home Affairs select committee to quiz them on their efforts to curb the numbers making the perilous crossing.
Gravesham MP Adam Holloway became embroiled in a series of testy exchanges during with a minister during the meeting,
Mr Holloway said there were ways of returning those to France which were being ignored.
“Why don't we have an arrangement with the French that if they get picked up, we return them straight back to Calais?”
Asylum minister Tom Pursglove replied saying 'there is no one single solution' but was repeatedly challenged by Mr Holloway.
He said: “What are we doing to get to the root cause of this rather than spending all this money?”. That was a reference to the UK government's decision to give the French £54m as a contribution to the efforts made to stop migrants crossing.
Mr Holloway pressed on: “Isn't all this just hot air? The reality is that people know that if they get here they will stay here. The problem will dry up quickly if people know that there is no prospect of them staying here. Isn't the answer that if you get to Britain, you won't stay in Britain?”
Tom Pursglove, Secretary of State for asylum, said: “We have to render the Channel route unviable.We did offer a comprehensive returns agreement to the EU, which they chose not to adopt. But it is an issue that needs to be tackled at source.”
Mr Holloway interrupted, saying: “You could do it tomorrow.”
Additional reporting by Paul Francis