Paul O’Connor Senior National Officer writes about the PCS Campaign 

PCS are a supporter of the Status Now Network. Here Paul O’Connor Senior National Officer writes about the PCS Campaign 


In autumn 2021, PCS was approached by members and representatives in our Home Office South-East England branch who had been asked by the then Home Secretary Priti Patel to carry out a dangerous pushbacks manoeuvre on small boats crossing the English Channel.  Our members were clear that they were completely opposed to the policy. They considered it unlawful, morally reprehensible and utterly inhumane.

On the back of that approach, alongside Care4Calais and Channel Rescue, PCS launched a legal challenge against the policy via judicial review.  The impact of this coalition should not be underestimated – here we had an organisation representing workers tasked with carrying out a policy; standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with organisations representing those affected by the policy – a clear indication of the level of inhumanity that the government is attempting to inflict on refugees. 

Despite all manner of egregious attempts to bully us out of the proceedings, including threats of potential fines and imprisonment for any breach of confidentiality in respect of the proceedings, our union stood firm.  One week before the judicial review was due to be held in the High Court in May last year, the Home Office wrote to PCS withdrawing the pushbacks policy and offering to pay all of our legal costs.  This was a humiliating defeat for the then Home Secretary who had put so much political capital in carrying out the manoeuvre and we had clearly won the day.


However, no sooner was the ink dry on the sealed order of the court, than the government announced its latest madcap escapade masquerading as a serious asylum policy, announcing that it would deport anybody making the small ball crossings to Rwanda.  PCS again put together a coalition, this time with Care4Calais and Detention Action, as well as with eight individual refugees under the threat of deportation.  In December 2022, the High Court ruled that the Rwanda policy was lawful, but it quashed the decisions made by the Home Office in relation to the cases of the eight individual refugees.  That ruling is now under appeal and the decision of the Court of Appeal is awaited.  We are pleased that nobody has yet been deported; and we are hopeful that our arguments will be upheld, but we are clear that we cannot rely on the courts to do what needs to be done

Safe Passage

For decade upon decade the ruling class in the UK has pursued neoliberal economic policies which have had disastrous consequences for the infrastructure of this country and its working class.  They have consistently sought to mask their failures by creating a poisonous environment for refugees, fuelling racial hatred in order to divide us from one another.  As living standards collapse, as the scale of the crisis is laid bare and as their edifice crumbles, they are playing the one card they have left for all it is worth – they are ratcheting up their demonisation of refugees in the hope of masking their catastrophic failures.

It is our job to challenge their narrative and create an alternative. To this end, PCS has begun our campaign by producing a joint policy with Care4Calais on safe passage for refugees.  We are confident, as has been seen with such initiatives being put in place for people coming to the UK from Ukraine and Hong Kong, that this is an eminently sensible and deliverable solution which will destroy the business model of the people traffickers in one fell swoop.  With the availability of safe passage, no longer will desperate people be forced to make a dangerous and life-threatening journey across the English Channel.

An end to hostility

PCS members do a difficult job in difficult circumstances. They are sick and tired of being used as a political football.  They also sick and tired of the constant pressure of downward political interference in the way that they carry out their roles. They want the time, space and resources to make properly considered decisions. The hostile environment in which they are working needs to be dismantled and the resources that the government is currently ploughing into initiatives which are doomed to failure should instead be used to facilitate the settlement of refugees in this country. A key element of that transition must be the ability for refugees to work and make a positive contribution.  They have been unjustly demonised for far too long and PCS stands in solidarity with them. We will fight to ensure that their lives, and the working lives of our members, are dramatically improved.