UK's Priti Patel backs down on 'inhuman' refugee pushback policy ahead of High Court challenge

UK's Priti Patel backs down on 'inhuman' refugee pushback policy ahead of High Court challenge
2 min read
25 April, 2022
The UK has withdrawn a 'refugee pushback' policy, which entailed encouraging Border Force to redirect dinghies in British waters to France, after facing legal complications.
The UK government planned to force refugees trying to cross the English Channel back to the sea [BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty]

The UK government officially withdrew Priti Patel's "refugee pushback" policy days before it was due to be examined in the High Court.

The government’s legal department said on Sunday that the plan to force migrants in dinghies back to France had been abandoned.

The planned policy, which came from the Home Office, encouraged the British Border Force to stop dinghies in UK waters and try to redirect them to France.

The withdrawal comes after a legal challenge by a group of refugee rights organisations -  PCS Union, which represents Home Office workers, Care4Calais, Channel Rescue and Freedom from Torture.

They stated that the UK Border Force has no legal power to carry out the pushback tactic.

Government lawyers told the Ministry of Defence Joint Commander of Channel operations in a letter to the Administrative Court that it "has not had permission to authorise the use of turnaround tactics".

However, if Patel decides to use turnaround tactics in the future it would be in the case of "the evolving nature of the small boats threat, migrant behaviour and organised criminal activity" being fully considered and under guidelines of operational procedures, the letter added.

Patel still refused to say the pushback policy was off the table, telling reporters while returning from a visit to Rwanda: “We rule nothing out, we can't rule anything out. I have always said. I get exhausted from saying it we have to keep all options on the table."

Patel has been widely criticised for her latest policy of sending refugees to the UK to Rwanda while their asylum cases are processed.

 Shadow Immigration Minister Stephen Kinnock welcomed Patel's stepback on the pushback tactic.

"The Home Secretary’s pushback policy was always completely unworkable, but she refused to listen to Border Force, her French counterparts, her Ministry of Defence colleagues and even her own lawyers. This is a humiliating climbdown," he said.

"Priti Patel’s Home Office is a complete disaster, more concerned with chasing headlines than with the common sense solutions we need."