Migrant crossings: Offshore centres 'a winner' says Saunders
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The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) representing border and immigration officials, said its members were ready to take action over the Home Secretary’s controversial “push back” plans. The policy would see officials look to redirect migrant boats in the Channel to move them back into French waters.
Ms Patel unveiled the plans last year in a bid to combat the record number of people trying to enter Britain via the Dover Strait in small boats.
In 2021, there were 28,381 migrants who made the treacherous journey – more than triple the number who made the crossing the year before.
The Home Office is being taken to court by the PCS and the refugee charity Care4Calais over its policy to stop more people using the dangerous route to Britain.
However, yesterday the PCS’s general secretary, Mark Serwotka, warned strike action could be taken if the court did not rule in their favour.
He said: “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.”
Ms Patel signed off on the strategy in September but it is yet to be used.
The union claims its members are “deeply concerned” the policy cannot be implemented safely.
It added officials could be exposed to civil or criminal proceedings if the policy was deemed unlawful.
The PCS fears the policy could lead to a repeat of the tragedy on November 24, 2021, when a boat of migrants drowned while attempting to make it to the UK.
Both French and British officials told the helpless migrants they needed to contact the other country for assistance.
Neither came to their rescue with 27 dying at sea.
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Clare Moseley, chief executive of the Care4Calais charity, warned the “push back” strategy risked turning “the English Channel into a graveyard”.
She said: “Care4Calais is deeply concerned about the impact the Home Office’s pushbacks policy will have on the loss of lives at sea.
“The proposed policy de-prioritises 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 where the Libyan coastguard watch refugees drown and the Greek coastguard fire weapons to turn them back.”
Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft has said boats would only be turned back in “certain limited circumstances”.
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