Priti Patel’s refugee pushback policy withdrawn days before legal revision | Immigration and asylum

Priti Patel’s refugee pushback policy has been officially withdrawn by the government days before a judicial review of the tactics was to be heard in the high court.

The government’s legal department acknowledged in a letter Sunday that the plan to try to force people in dinghies back to France has been abandoned following Boris Johnson’s announcement that the Royal Navy would take over operations in the Channel.

Patel officials received notice last week that the Department of Defense, which is now responsible for picking up refugees in the Channel, was not allowed to use the tactic, the letter said.

The policy, which was finalized in the autumn by the Home Office, authorized and urged border force officials to stop migrant vessels in British waters and forcibly redirect them to return to France. In January, Patel said pushing boats back was “absolutely still politics” as she testified before the Lord’s Justice and Home Affairs Committee.

In its letter, the Legal Department said that the policy and procedures had been withdrawn and that the MoD’s Joint Commander had not been allowed to allow the use of turnaround tactics.

The letter, which was signed on behalf of the lawyer, said a “significant development” had meant the case would no longer continue. “This development stemmed from the Prime Minister’s announcement on Thursday 14 April 2022 that the Ministry of Defense will take over the lead in connection with canal operations with regard to small boat crossings.

“As a result of a military order issued to the Secretary of State for Interior Ministry officials earlier on April 20, 2022, the Secretary of Defense’s Commander-in-Chief has not been authorized to allow the use of turnaround tactics,” the letter reads.

It said that if a decision was made to use turnaround tactics in the future, it would only be after a full consideration of all relevant factors.

‘The Secretary of State for the Interior [Patel] has stated that: the policies and procedures which are the subject of the ongoing proceedings will be withdrawn; if a decision were made to use turnaround tactics in the future, it would only be after a full consideration of all relevant factors, including the evolving nature of the threat of small boats, migrant behavior and organized criminal activity; and new policies, guidance and operational procedures would have to be formulated at that time. “

Four organizations – the PCS union, Care4Calais, Channel Rescue and Freedom from Torture – had challenged the Interior Ministry’s policy, with the applications set for a three-day hearing on 3 May.

The rise comes as the bill on nationality and borders reaches its final stage in parliament. Lords has twice rejected parts of the bill that would severely punish refugees arriving in the UK without a visa, in accordance with their rights under the Refugee Convention.

Patel had repeatedly said that there was a legal basis for the pushback policy despite the fact that he introduced explicit powers to reject the boats in the nationality and border bill on the grounds that there was no such current legal power.

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PCS Secretary-General Mark Serwotka said: “This humiliating rise by the government is a great victory for Interior Ministry staff and refugees. There is little doubt that lives have been saved. The pushback maneuver is extremely dangerous and poses a clear risk to life. and members. We were simply not prepared to let our members be placed in this terrible position. “

Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, said: “I have a hard time believing that anyone in the government thought pushing backlinks in the channel was a viable policy.”

Sonya Sceats, CEO of Freedom from Torture, said: “This significant rise of government shows that change is possible when we come together. But we should never have had to take this government to court to defend the sanctity of life – it is scandalous that it reached this point. “

Steven Martin of Channel Rescue said: “Pushbacks are a ruthless danger to life and we have always maintained and reminded the government that they are illegal. The violent withdrawal of people seeking protection is abhorrent and deprives them of their right to asylum . “

The Guardian revealed on Friday that unpublished parts of the proposed pushback policy said the tactic would not be used against asylum seekers.

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