“People cannot be illegal”: Ben & Jerry’s sparks controversy over refugee tweet

Aug 12, 2020 | Content marketing, Social, Twitter marketing, UK, Unilever - Research, tips and news for marketers

“People cannot be illegal”: Ben & Jerry's sparks controversy over refugee tweet
Ice cream brand Ben and Jerry’s has criticised the UK Government’s call for the Navy to stop migrants crossing the Channel, sparking a war of words with the Home Office, which claimed it did not care about angering ‘a brand of over-priced junk food’.

The spat began when Ben & Jerry’s UK Twitter account posted: ‘We think the real crisis is our lack of humanity for people fleeing war, climate change and torture.’

But a Home Office source soon hit back, defending Ms Patel’s handling of the crisis, adding if that meant upsetting the social media team “for a brand of overpriced junk food then so be it”.

Patel has been leading the government’s response to the increase in numbers of migrants making the hazardous voyage during the calmer summer conditions at sea.

Criminal gangs demand thousands of pounds for passage on overcrowded small boats that often barely have enough fuel to reach UK waters.

More than 4,000 people have made it across the world’s busiest shipping lane so far this year, and the calmer summer months often lead to more people making the journey, with at least 597 arriving between Thursday and Sunday.

The government has promised a “new, comprehensive action plan” to deal with the issue after holding talks with French officials.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also come under fire after calling migrant boat crossings a “very bad and stupid and dangerous and criminal thing to do”.

Wading into the controversy, Ben & Jerry’s posted a series of messages on Twitter taking the home secretary to task over moves to curb the crossings.

The company wrote: “Hey Priti Patel, we think the real crisis is our lack of humanity for people fleeing war, climate change and torture.
“People wouldn’t make dangerous journeys if they had any other choice.”

It added: “Stronger’ borders aren’t the answer and only puts more lives at risk.

“Let’s remember we’re all human and have the same rights to life regardless of the country we happen to have been born in.”
But Home Office insiders said Ms Patel would not be deterred from tackling the crisis.

“Priti is working day and night to bring an end to these small boat crossings, which are facilitated by international criminal gangs and are rightly of serious concern to the British people,” the source said.

“If that means upsetting the social media team for a brand of overpriced junk food then so be it.”

Meanwhile, government minister James Cleverley was even more critical of the brand:

Ben & Jerry’s, which is owned by consumer goods giant Unilever, has a long history of activism. From same-sex marriage to criminal justice reform to campaign finance, Ben & Jerry’s has taken a stance on nearly every major social issue of the last three decades. It’s also tried to reflect those values internally — to varying degrees of success — by sourcing ethical products throughout its supply chain and paying Vermont employees a liveable hourly wage.

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