Channel Crossings

Events and petitions below:

Updated 27 November 2021: Public and Commercial Services Union PCS: PCS joins legal action against government plans to pushback boats

PCS, the union representing Border Force staff, has joined Care4Calais in their legal fight to prevent Home Secretary Priti Patel from pushing back migrant Channel boats. 

Following the tragic deaths of 27 people in the Channel this week, pressure has mounted on the government to reverse its intention to make Border Force staff prevent boats from reaching the UK. 

PCS along with Care4Calais are demanding Priti Patel publishes the details of the policy and the legal basis of the Pushback policy.

The government is required to respond by Monday and if it refuses to abandon the policy, PCS could launch judicial review proceedings in the coming weeks. 

Several charities have also started legal challenges against the policy. 

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The Pushback policy being pursued by the Home Secretary is unlawful, unworkable and above all morally reprehensible.  

“Our border force members are aghast at the thought they will be forced to implement such a cruel and inhumane policy.  

“Migrants who are trying to reach this country should be allowed to so via safe routes so that their claims can be assessed here.

“If the government does not abandon this appalling approach, we will pursue all legal avenues including a judicial review.  

“PCS will not rule out all forms of industrial action, including disrupting the implementation of the Pushback policy if the Home Secretary insists on going ahead.” 

Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais said: 

“We are incredibly proud to be joined in this action by PCS. 

“Not only will this challenge represent the interest of desperate people forced to risk their lives, it will also represent those who may well be forced to implement it.” 


Guardian: Border Force staff union joins fight to block Priti Patel’s pushback plansHome secretary under pressure as own staff join challenge to high-profile policy on Channel crossings

The union representing Border Force staff has announced it is taking part in a legal challenge against a plan by Priti Patel to push back small boats in the Channel.

[…]

The loss of dozens of lives in the Channel this week has increased pressure on the government to drop its plans to make Border Force staff prevent boats from reaching the UK by physically pushing the boats back.

PCS and the two charities it is bringing the legal challenge with are demanding Patel publish the details of the policy and the legal basis for it.

The government is required to respond by this Monday. If it refuses to abandon the policy, PCS and the charities could launch judicial review proceedings imminently. Other organisations, including Channel Rescue and the charity Freedom from Torture, have launched separate legal challenges against the pushback plans.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/nov/27/border-force-staff-union-joins-fight-to-block-to-priti-patels-pushback-plans


By Cryton Chikoko of SNN signatory organisation Equanicity: Borders kill – time to question them? 

On Wednesday, at least 27 people drowned trying to reach safety in the UK. Thousands have perished over the years. 

While the Global North can freely roam the world, strong travel barriers are devised against The Global South.

Borders segregate people. They make sure that some people group wallow in unimaginable affluence while others are in indescribable misery (hugely a consequence of the activities and exploitation of The Global North). 

As far as I know, there is no campaign that goes far enough to touch the legitimacy of borders.

Instability in many parts of the world and global warming mean that migration will only increase. More people will move in order to survive. 

Our safe-and-legal-routes rallying cry, even if granted, may work but for a while. 

Perhaps the time has come now to interrogate the whole concept of borders or should we wait a little bit longer so that we don’t appear insane?  

Borders kill. I hate them.  

Cryton Chikoko is co-founder of Equanicity, SNN signatory. 


SNN signatory Care4Calais · In the last 24 hours I’ve been filled with new hope and belief in what I, and all of us here, do in our work with refugees. It has been such a horrific week. Twenty seven refugees drowning in the English Channel, and the UK Government’s reaction is simply to double down on its draconian and dangerous anti-refugee bill. But since yesterday, ordinary, decent people have begun spontaneously taking to the streets, holding vigils for those lost; thousands of them from all walks of life, all across the United Kingdom, coming together to honour the memory of 27 innocent people who sought only safety on our shores. Today I stood in such a group of people, and listened to speakers voicing from the heart the feelings we felt, and I truly believed we can change things. Enough is enough; these deaths must stop. And if that means challenging Government, then so be it. (see the video of demonstrations around the country on the Facebook page)


Updated 26 November 2021: See StatusNow statement here: https://statusnow4all.org/at-and-within-the-uks-borders-statusnow4all-identifies-with-everyone-in-transit-and-everyone-who-has-died-in-transit/


BBC News: [SNN signatory]  Migrant Voice director Nazek Ramadan tells BBC News that yesterday’s tragedy “could have been avoided”. “These were unnecessary deaths and there have been warnings for years and years for the government to do something,” she adds. “The problem isn’t the smugglers…the smugglers are there because the migrants are there, and people end up using them because they are desperate, there is no other way for them. ”“People end up resorting to huge risks and it’s not easy for them, actually people are terrified of getting on dinghies.” #ChannelCrossings#MigrantVoices#RefugeesWelcome (BBC News 25 November 2021 )

https://fb.watch/9wqFP44-F5/


The Justice Gap: “It’s easier to believe that they are “migrants”.  We can’t acknowledge we have let 30 desperate refugees drown’

We know desperately little about those who drowned in the Channel this week. We know they set off from Calais in search of safe harbour in the UK. We know their ethnicity, if not their nationalities. We know they will have been terrified as their boat was submerged by the waves, and that their last moments will have been the stuff of nightmares.

For some, we know their names. Beyond that, we are reduced to guesswork. We can infer that they were desperate, that they thought the UK was the best place for a better life, and that they had hope for the future.  We can infer their social class, their ages, their education. But much is left unknown.

Read more: https://www.thejusticegap.com/its-easier-to-believe-that-they-are-migrants-we-cant-acknowledge-we-have-let-30-desperate-refugees-drown/


BBC: France scraps UK talks over Johnson migrants letter

France has cancelled talks with UK Home Secretary Priti Patel after Prime Minister Boris Johnson publicly called on France to take back migrants who crossed the Channel.

In an escalation of the political crisis after the deaths of 27 people in the Channel, President Emmanuel Macron said communications between leaders should not take place over Twitter.

A summit with other European states is due to take place in Calais on Sunday.

But the home secretary is not invited.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said Mr Johnson’s public letter was “unacceptable” and the president said later he was “surprised by the methods when they are not serious”.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-59428311


Petition: BARAC UK and Nation of Islam European HQ Stop the government turning away small boats of migrants

BARAC UK and Nation of Islam European HQ started a petition to PM Boris Johnson , UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights: We have started this petition in opposition to the UK government’s policy to turn away small boats of refugees and migrants arriving by sea and the training of Border Force staff to carry out their ‘turnaround’ policy.

Abuse of Human Rights: We believe that this is an abuse of human rights and it is essential that we challenge it collectively.  When people are risking their lives and those  of their children to travel across seas in life threatening conditions, where the chances of success are known to be remote,  we must consider the push factors which are causing them to make such a decision. Nobody embarks on such a perilous journey unless they believe what they are fleeing is worse than what they are to face. 75% of those crossing the Channel on small boats are children.

Breach of International Laws: Turning people away from British seas to face an almost certain death and the nullifying of International Maritime law to save those in need at sea Under the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea. This policy also contravenes International law under the Geneva Convention on the right to seek asylum. Each State must also refrain from actions that would endanger asylum seekers.  This is a concern for  the whole International community, as it would leave every single one of us unprotected and vulnerable. 

Read more and sign here: https://actionstorm.org/petitions/stop-the-government-turning-away-small-boats-of-migrants-6148cb336d5cf


November 2021 events that have ended:

London:

Organised by SOAS Detainee Support Group

25 November 2021: Scotland Event by Positive Action in HousingStand Up To Racism and 3 others today – Thursday 5-6.15pm No more deaths in the Channel // Refugees welcome here! – Glasgow emergency protest, Buchanan street steps

Emergency solidarity protest: Thursday 25 November, 5pm, Buchanan Street steps Our thoughts are with those who have lost their lives, and their loved ones. The British government’s racist hostile environment, and its latest attack on refugees and migrants in Priti Patel’s Nationality and Borders Bill, has and will continue to lead to the horror and tragedy of loss of life in the Channel. We say don’t let them drown, end the racist hostile environment, scrap the borders bill, and listen to the majority of us who we say loud and clear, refugees are welcome here! Safe passage for all.

Saturday 27 November 2021: 2pm London Emergency protest: StandUpToRacism has organised: Don’t Let Them Drown – Refugees welcome – Safe Passage Now! https://www.facebook.com/events/577170810009107

Tonight our thoughts are with those who have lost their lives in the English Channel, and their loved ones. The British government’s racist hostile environment, and its latest attack on refugees and migrants in the Nationality and Borders Bill, has and will continue to lead to the horror and tragedy of loss of life in the Channel.

This Saturday at 2PM we will be protesting outside Downing Street to demand safe passage for all, end the racist hostile environment, scrap the borders bill, and say loud and clear, refugees are welcome here!

SATURDAY 27 November 2021: AT 13:00 Emergency Solidarity Vigil Broadgate, Coventry, CV1  https://www.facebook.com/events/253357576789590/

Sunday 28 November 2021: @RefugeesWelcomeHere #Solidarity with #Refugees@Care4Calais@AntiRacismDay Vigil & Rally ‘After the drowning of refugees we demand safe passage for refugees’ @TUCNorthWest@Statusnow4all@GMIAU@bevcraig@Afzal4Gorton https://twitter.com/Manchester_SUTR


Update 24 November 2021: [SNN signatory] Positive Action in Housing: Statement in response to the drowning of 27 refugees in the English Channel

Letting refugees drown is tantamount to collateral murder by governments that should know by heart the lessons of the Second World War.

Responding to news of 27 refugees  drowning in the English Channel after their dinghy capsized while trying to cross the English Channel from France to the UK earlier today, Robina Qureshi, Chief Executive of Positive Action in Housing, a refugee and migrant homelessness and human rights charity, said:

“Letting refugees drown is tantamount to collateral murder by governments that should know by heart the lessons of the Second World War.  The responsibility for these deaths lies with Europe and the U.K. who have abjectly failed to create safe corridors for the sliver of a fraction of the world’s refugees who risk their lives on dangerous journeys to arrive on our shores.

“Instead of creating safe, humanitarian corridors, the UK government has stopped rescue missions and sounded dog whistles to the far right. The more that governments try to stop refugees arriving, the more they fuel the human trafficking trade, and the more refugees who will risk death by drowning in order to take a chance at fleeing persecution, in order to reach family already here and saving loved ones back home.

“We strongly urge the BBC and other media outlets to get their words right. The people who died after their boats sank in the English Channel are refugees NOT migrants. They ARE men, women and children fleeing persecution from countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen and elsewhere. People fleeing these countries are refugees, not migrants.”

https://www.paih.org/statement-in-response-to-drownings-in-the-english-channel-today


[SNN signatory] Care4Calais  · We are devastated to hear that as many as 27 more people have died attempting to cross the English Channel to the UK.

According to news reports from France, at two o’ clock this afternoon a fisherman raised the alarm after finding bodies floating in the sea off Calais. Reports say that between five and 24 people died in the water. This horrific news comes after an autumn in which five refugee have died, and five more been lost at sea on the UK-France border.

Our hearts go out to family and friends of those lost today, and indeed to any family with relatives attempting such dangerous journeys. Such terrifying crossings can being only deadly fear and suffering to all those concerned. And this suffering is made even more tragic by the fact that every single death is easily preventable. This latest news highlights more than ever why we need a modern system of safe, legal routes enabling refugees to apply for asylum in the UK. After today’s tragedy, the lack of such a system must surely be regarded as intolerable by all reasonable people. On behalf of those people, we once again urge the UK Government to scrap its anti-refugee bill, and introduce such a system immediately.

BBC: International refugee system ‘at risk of collapse’ – charity

A migrant charity has warned that the international procedure for protecting refugees was at risk of collapse.

Speaking in response to the tragedy, Zoe Gardener from the [SNN signatory] London-based Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants told the BBC there is “no requirement on people to seek asylum in the first country they reach”.

She said: “Of course there isn’t, otherwise nobody would end up seeking protection in the UK.”

Gardener adds that allthough the UK is a “compassionate country”, it’s also a rich, powerful and stable place that is “very able to offer protection to lots more refugees than we currently do”.

“So if everybody is supposed to stay in France because we’re slightly to the west of France, then France can say the same thing to Italy, and then Italy can say the same thing to Libya, and in the end, the entire international refugee protection regime will crumble”, she said.

Guardian: Thirty-one people drown after refugee boat capsizes in Channel, French minister confirms – latest

French interior minister Gérald Darmanin says five women and one young girl among those who have drowned

[There are updates being added to this report – https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2021/nov/24/more-than-20-people-believed-to-have-died-after-refugee-boat-sinks-in-channel-latest-updates ]


1 October 2021: Cosmopolis: Prohibition on Making Asylum Claims in UK Territorial Waters
The Devil is in the detail, hiding in plain sight. Clause 12 of the Nationality and Borders Bill requires an asylum claim to be made at a designated place. Although some places may be designated later by regulations, all the places designated on the face of the Bill are on the territory or landmass of the United Kingdom.  However, the UK territorial sea is excluded from being a place where a Home Office Immigration Officer is authorised to accept an asylum claim. Why prohibit asylum claims being made in UK territorial waters?

The answer is that the Home Office expects Immigration Officers to be in UK territorial waters (in reality the English Channel) in boats, exercising maritime enforcement powers to board, intercept and drive away insecure vessels of asylum seekers crossing the Channel, before those people arrive on UK territory to claim asylum. Such exercises would be hampered, if not frustrated, were Immigration Officers to board a vessel, or maybe even rescue people in distress from a vessel on to their own Home Office boat, only to have those people make claims for asylum in the UK. Does the exclusion the UK territorial sea from being a place to make an asylum frustrate the operation of the Refugee Convention? Is it really performing Refugee Convention obligations in good faith to make policy in this way?

Read more: Adrian Berry, Cosmopolis, https://is.gd/cbrMHw


Updated 14 September 2021: Independent: Border Force carries out ‘pushback drills’ using jet skis to divert dinghies in Channel, footage suggests

‘We saw the jet skis either side and at the rear of the boat and then collide with the vessel to actually spin it around. It looked dangerous,’ says director of Channel Rescue

Border Force staff have used jet skis to turn around dinghies in the English Channel as part of a training exercise, footage suggests.

Photographs and video footage taken by charity Channel Rescue on Monday morning shows large Border Force vessels with what appears to be three jet skis trying to turn around rubber boats.

Read more: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/pushback-jetski-migrants-home-office-b1919348.html


9 September 2021: updated: Guardian: Patel’s plans to send migrant boats back to France ‘dead in water’, union says

Immigration workers’ union says maritime law would have to be rewritten, and France has rejected proposals.

Priti Patel’s plans to send back small boats carrying migrants in the Channel are already “dead in the water”, an immigration workers’ union has said.

Border Force staff are being trained to employ “turn-around” tactics at sea under plans developed for two years, a statement from the Home Office said overnight.

But Lucy Moreton, professional officer at the Immigration Services Union (ISU) said she would be surprised if the policy, announced as criticism of the government’s social care reforms was mounting, was used “even once”.

The proposals, which would require maritime law to be rewritten, have already been rejected by the French government.

Read more: http://theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/sep/09/priti-patels-plans-to-send-migrant-boats-back-to-france-dead-in-water


BBC News: Channel crossings: Migrant boats could be turned back in new UK move

Home Secretary Priti Patel wants to allow the UK Border Force to be able to turn back boats carrying migrants across the English Channel.

A government source told the BBC if used, the tactic would only happen in “very certain, narrow circumstances”.

The details are still to be finalised – but there are questions over whether it would break international maritime law.

France is likely to oppose any such move, saying “safeguarding human lives at sea takes priority”.

Ms Patel met her French counterpart, interior minister Gérald Darmanin, on Wednesday for talks on the migrant crisis – but the two sides failed to agree any new measures.

After the meeting, it was reported by some newspapers that the government was considering allowing Border Force officials to turn away boats.

A senior government source told the BBC although the government is agreed on the potential idea, the operational details are still to be finalised.

And they said the tactic would only be used in “very certain, narrow circumstances”.

But France believes the idea is dangerous and flouts international maritime law. Under the law, people at risk of losing their lives at sea must be rescued.

So far this week, more than 1,500 migrants have crossed the English Channel by boat.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-58495948