UK government U-turned on refugee 'pushback policy' to 'avoid defeat': charity

UK government U-turned on refugee 'pushback policy' to 'avoid defeat': charity
A British refugee charity said the UK government withdrew their 'pushback policy' regarding migrants just days before a High Court hearing because 'they realised they were going to lose'.
2 min read
27 April, 2022
Freedom From Torture said 'we should never have had to take this government to court in order to defend the sanctity of life' [source: Getty]

The UK government U-turned on plans for a “refugee pushback” policy because “they realised they were going to lose” the impending legal challenges, a British refugee charity said on Tuesday. 

The British government officially withdrew their controversial strategy to force migrants in dinghies in the English Channel back to France just days before the policy was due to be examined in the High Court. 

The “pushback” policy was set to undergo a judicial review following legal challenges by a group of refugee organisations, including PCS Union, which represents Home Office workers, Care4Calais, Channel Rescue and Freedom from Torture. 

Sonya Sceats, Chief Executive at Freedom from Torture, told The New Arab: “We are confident that the government pulled the policy at the last minute not because they had a change of heart about the sanctity of human life, but because they realised they were going to lose.”  

Freedom From Torture decided to pursue legal action against the policy - which they branded as “unlawful” - because of “the risk to life”.

Last November, 27 people drowned in the English Channel, including one pregnant woman and three children, after their boat capsized while they were attempting to reach the UK. 

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Government lawyers told the UK Ministry of Defence, which is now in charge of picking up refugees in the Channel, that it did not have “permission to authorise the use of turnaround tactics” in a letter last week. 

If UK Home Secretary Priti Patel decided to adopt pushback tactics “it would only be after a full consideration of all relevant matters,” the letter added. 

“Given that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) made clear their opposition to pushbacks after responsibility for the policy was passed to them, it had become increasingly evident that the policy was dead in the water,” said Sceats. 

When asked why the home secretary has stressed that nothing is "off the table" in regards to UK migration policy, Sceats replied: "Priti Patel will want to avoid the appearance of going soft in the eyes of the far-right, which she is constantly seeking to appease via her anti-refugee policies." 

The UK government is also facing backlash over the announcement of a new policy to ship asylum seekers to Rwanda, labelled as “cruel” and “inhumane” by refugee groups.