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Patel facing triple legal threat over her ‘inhumane’ migrant ‘push back’ proposal in the Channel

PRITI PATEL’S “life-threatening and inhumane” proposal to “push back” small boats in the Channel is now facing a triple legal threat.

Having launched a new legal fundraiser against the policy on Wednesday, Channel Rescue has already received donations in excess of £20,000. 

The human rights organisation said that the huge level of support it has already received proves that the public are willing to help challenge the government’s hard-line border policies “in any way they can.”

The fundraiser was launched on the same day that a boat tragically capsized in the Channel, killing 27 people.

Channel Rescue is one of three organisations threatening to take the Home Secretary to court over her plans to push back small boats, which they say will put more lives at risk.

It argues that the policy, first proposed by Ms Patel earlier this year, is illegal under British and international maritime law, which require vessels to provide assistance to those in danger or distress at sea.

Speaking to the Morning Star, Channel Rescue volunteer Kim Bryan said it was outrageous that, after Wednesday’s tragedy, Ms Patel was “still sticking to her hard line, including the push-back policy.”

Refugee rights groups have blamed the disaster, in which three children and a pregnant woman were among those who died, on increasing security at the border, which they argue has forced refugees to make more dangerous journeys. 

Ms Bryan said that Channel Rescue volunteers have already observed Border Force performing training exercises on jet skis off the Kent coast, ahead of potential operations to turn around small dinghies.

“If you’d witnessed it you’d be in tears, honestly, to see Border Force jet skis physically bumping into a tiny boat full of people to turn it around,” she said. 

“People are going to die. More people are going to die.”

Support for the group’s legal fundraiser had surpassed £24,000 by yesterday evening — just two days after it was launched. 

“The tragedy on Wednesday really hit home that these are human beings and these are innocent people’s lives: you know, children, pregnant women,” Ms Bryan said. “People see that, and the crowdfunder is proof of that — people want to help in any way they can.”

The group, represented by legal firm Reed Smith LLP, has given Ms Patel until November 29 to respond to its legal challenge, or says it will launch judicial review proceedings. 

The Freedom from Torture charity is also challenging the plans, arguing that the “turn-back” policy has no legal basis, authorises unlawful conduct by officials and is prohibited by the Refugee Convention.

Chief executive Sonya Sceats said the tragic deaths this week should be a wake-up call for the government.

She said: “Wherever we come from, we all have a right to feel safe. But Boris Johnson’s cruel plan to ‘push back’ refugee dinghies will only lead to more people dying in the Channel. We believe this is not only morally indefensible, but also against the law. 

“It’s scandalous that we have to challenge it in the courts, because the moral compass of this government is so lost at sea.”

A third challenge, brought by Care4Calais, focuses on transparency, arguing that if a policy has been formulated, then it should be published for scrutiny. 

Tensions between British and French authorities became a full-scale diplomatic row yesterday after Ms Patel was disinvited to a top-level meeting taking place in Calais tomorrow. 

It followed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to publish a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron listing demands on how to avoid more drownings in the Channel, including joint patrols and introducing sensors and radar. 

The proposals were dismissed by French government spokesman Gabriel Attal, who said it was “clearly not what we need to solve this problem.” 

He said that the PM’s letter did not correspond with discussions Mr Johnson and Mr Macron had when they spoke on Wednesday, adding: “We are sick of double-speak.”

A Number 10 spokesman insisted yesterday that the proposals had been sent in a “spirit of partnership and co-operation.” 

But shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds condemned the PM’s decision to post the sensitive letter on Twitter, branding it “a grave error of judgement.”

When asked about the legal challenges, the Home Office said it was right to continue looking at a “range of safe and legal options to find ways of stopping small boats making this dangerous and unnecessary journey.”


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