Border Force officials could strike over plans to turn back Channel

Border Force officials could go on strike against Priti Patel’s “morally wrong” plans to turn dinghies back into the English Channel, a union has said.

The Home Office is facing legal action over proposals to turn small boats into the sea, a tactic warning campaigners could put lives at risk.

The news comes after figures compiled by the PA news agency showed 28,300 people crossed the Strait of Dover in small boats in 2021, triple the number in 2020.

The government is continuing to consider various options to address the issue and has invited the companies to a non-disclosure, deal-related meeting in hopes of hearing “innovative ideas”.

Channel crossing incidents by migrants
People are escorted by Border Force officers after being brought to Dover, Kent, following a small boating incident in the English Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The Syndicat des services publics et commercials (PCS), whose members include around 80% of the border force agents who would be in charge of implementing the “refoulements”, and the charity Care4Calais have filed an application for judicial review of the pushback policy.

They intend to challenge the legality of the redirection of boats out of UK waters and into France.

The union said the policy “breaks international law and is morally wrong” and could put Border Force officials at risk of prosecution.

Even if the lawsuit is dismissed, the union has not ruled out industrial action and officials refuse to carry out the pushbacks.

“We cannot have a situation where our members could be open to possible civil and criminal liability for implementing a policy that they do not agree with and know is not safe. .

“While we hope for a positive outcome from the legal proceedings, people should have no doubt that PCS strongly opposes this policy, on moral and humanitarian grounds, and we will not rule out industrial action to prevent it from happening. be conducted.”

Clare Moseley, founder of refugee charity Care4Calais, said: “The proposed policy does not prioritize the UK’s duty under national 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 allow the UK to devalue lives at sea.

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘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 prevent small boats to make this dangerous and unnecessary journey.

“These are all compliant and delivered in accordance with national and international law.

“Our new plan for immigration will also overhaul the broken asylum system and reduce many historic pull factors.”

The Interior Ministry continues to explore various options in its attempt to stop the crossings of thousands of people from France on small boats.

Despite the Home Secretary’s pledge to make crossings an “infrequent phenomenon” by spring 2020, more than 36,000 people have managed to reach the UK in the past two years.

Facing another year with thousands of level crossings, the Home Office has invited businesses to an event later this month in the hope of gleaning new ideas on how to tackle the crisis.

Participants will be bound by a non-disclosure agreement and then invited to “share their innovative ideas, new approaches and potential solutions that can be legally deployed in the UK”.

The number of adult asylum seekers falsely claiming to be children is a “significant issue”, the department said in announcing the creation of a scientific advisory committee to seek advice on ways to verify the age of those who arrive in the UK.

Downing Street was unable to say whether the number of small boats crossing the Channel this year will be lower than the total for 2021.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I’m not going to go into level crossing level predictions.”

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