Former Civil Servant Accuses UK Cabinet Office of Racism and Discrimination

Former civil servant Rowaa Ahmar alleges systemic racism and discrimination in the UK Cabinet Office, leading to her resignation. The case highlights broader issues of racism and bullying within the government.

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Quadri Adejumo
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Former Civil Servant Accuses UK Cabinet Office of Racism and Discrimination

Former Civil Servant Accuses UK Cabinet Office of Racism and Discrimination

Rowaa Ahmar, a former senior civil servant of Egyptian and French heritage, has alleged that she faced a "hostile racist working environment" while working at the UK Cabinet Office, which ultimately led to her resignation.

Ahmar claims she was forced out of her roles at the COP26 climate summit and on an immigration taskforce due to bullying, discrimination, and racism by senior officials.

According to Ahmar, she was unwelcome at discussions about the controversial policy of sending migrants to Rwanda because she did not support the "racist ultra-hostility" of the proposals. She lodged two claims against the Cabinet Office, arguing that she was subjected to "direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of her sex and race" as well as "victimisation". The Cabinet Office has denied the claims, calling them "completely unfounded".

Ahmar stated that she tried to focus the small boats policy on targeting criminal gangs, but managers "were onboard for the racist ultra-hostility" and saw her as an "unwelcome visitor". She also alleged that she was blocked from meetings and told that her secondment was ending abruptly due to "poor behaviour". Ahmar believes that speaking up against racism was a "career death sentence" at the taskforce.

The case highlights broader allegations of systemic racism and bullying within the Cabinet Office. Ahmar cited a leaked 2022 report about such issues, as well as the case of another civil servant, Kay Badu, who received a six-figure settlement from the government after complaining of racial discrimination and bullying.

Ahmar specifically accused Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, the head of the civil service, of showing a "lack of support" and "cold-shouldering" her allegations of racism and harassment. Case has recently faced criticism for his membership in the exclusive, men-only Garrick Club, which he quit after initially claiming he had joined to help women become members.

The tribunal judge ruled that details of Ahmar's case could be reported, and she stands by her claims of race and sex discrimination. The Cabinet Office maintains that Ahmar was removed from one of her roles due to her own "negative and problematic behaviour".

Why this matters: This case sheds light on allegations of systemic racism and discrimination within the highest levels of the UK government. It raises questions about the culture and practices within the Cabinet Office and the civil service, and the potential impact on policy-making and governance.

Ahmar's allegations, along with the leaked 2022 report and the case of Kay Badu, suggest a pattern of racism and bullying within the Cabinet Office. The tribunal's decision to allow details of Ahmar's case to be reported may encourage other civil servants to come forward with similar experiences.

As the government faces scrutiny over its handling of these issues, it remains to be seen what steps will be taken to address the alleged hostile working environment and ensure a more inclusive and equitable civil service.

Key Takeaways

  • Former civil servant Rowaa Ahmar alleged racism, discrimination in UK Cabinet Office
  • Ahmar claims she was forced out of roles due to bullying, racism by senior officials
  • Cabinet Office denies Ahmar's claims, calls them "completely unfounded"
  • Case highlights broader allegations of systemic racism, bullying in Cabinet Office
  • Tribunal allowed details of Ahmar's case to be reported, may encourage others to come forward