Border Force officials could strike over Priti Patel’s “morally reprehensible” plans to turn back dinghies in the Channel, a union has said.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents the vast majority of Border Force staff who would implement the “pushbacks”, has joined forces with the refugee charity Care4Calais to seek a judicial review of the policy, a tactic campaigners warn could put lives at risk.
Channel crossings have become one of the most politicised issues in British politics, with the home secretary, Priti Patel, staking her reputation on making the route “unviable".
A total of 28,300 people crossed the Dover Strait onboard small boats in 2021, triple the number for 2020, according to figures compiled by the PA Media news agency.
The PCS and Care4Calais intend to challenge the lawfulness of redirecting boats out of UK waters and back to Francia.
The union said the policy “contravenes international law and is morally reprehensible”, and could expose Border Force officials to risk of prosecution.
Even if the court application is unsuccessful, the union has not ruled out industrial action and officials refusing to carry out the pushbacks.
The PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, disse: “The legality of the pushbacks policy is in serious question, and it is right that the court decides whether it is unlawful to turn back Channel boats. We cannot have a situation where our members could be open to potential civil and criminal action for implementing a policy that they do not agree with and know is not safe.
“Although we are hoping for a positive outcome from the legal proceedings, people should be in no doubt PCS strongly opposes this policy, on moral and humanitarian grounds, and we will not rule out industrial action to prevent it being carried out.”
Clare Moseley, the founder of Care4Calais, disse: “The proposed policy deprioritises the UK’s duty under domestic and international law to save lives at sea. It is for good reason that this duty is a cornerstone of international maritime law. If eroded, I fear it will enable the UK to devalue lives at sea.”
“It risks opening the gates to the horrific scenes we are seeing in the Mediterranean," lei ha aggiunto.
Un portavoce del Ministero degli Interni ha detto: “As part of our ongoing operational response and to prevent further loss of life at sea, we continue to test a range of safe and legal options to stop small boats making this dangerous and unnecessary journey.
“These all comply and are delivered in accordance with both domestic and international law. Our New Plan for Immigration will also overhaul the broken asylum system and reduce many of the historic pull factors.”
Despite the home secretary’s pledge to make crossings an “infrequent phenomenon” by spring 2020, più di 36,000 people have succeeded in reaching the UK in the last two years.
The government continues to consider various options to tackle the issue and has invited businesses to a non-disclosure-agreement-bound meeting in the hope of hearing “innovative ideas”.