Government withdraws migrant pushback policy ahead of High Court challenge

The Government has withdrawn its migrant pushback policy just over a week before it was due to be challenged in the High Court, it has been claimed.

The policy would have allowed border force patrols to intercept migrant vessels in the English Channel and take them back to France.

It was due to be challenged at the High Court by the Public and Commercial Services trade union (PCS), Care4Calais, Channel Rescue, and Freedom from Torture.

They were set to argue that the Border Force did not have the legal authority to push the vessels back, and that doing so would infringe on the migrant’s human rights.

However, in a statement, PCS – which represents eight in 10 Border Force frontline workers – said that they had been informed by the Home Office on Sunday night that the policy had been withdrawn.

In response to the news, the four groups have now withdrawn their judicial review claims to the High Court

PCS General Secretary, Mark Serwotka called it a “humiliating climbdown” for the Government.

“This humiliating climbdown by the government is a stunning victory for Home Office workers and for refugees”, he said.

“PCS is proud to have brought this legal action alongside refugee groups in order to prevent this morally reprehensible and utterly inhumane proposal from ever seeing the light of day. There is little doubt that lives have been saved.

“The pushbacks manoeuvre is extremely dangerous and represents a clear risk to life and limb.

“We were simply not prepared to allow our members to be placed in this horrendous position.”

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.

It comes after the Government announced a new deal with Rwanda, which would allow it to send asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats for processing to the African nation, where they would have the right to apply to live.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby described the Government’s deal with Rwanda as “the opposite of the nature of God” (Aaron Chown/PA)

The full cost of the agreement has yet to be revealed, although a £120 million economic deal was struck between the UK and Rwanda, with cash for each removal expected to follow.

The Rwanda agreement has been criticised by senior Tories, Labour and church figures including the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

Conservative former prime minister Theresa May has questioned the “legality, practicality and efficacy” of the plan, and Mr Welby described it as “the opposite of the nature of God”.