Ministers drop plans to turn back Channel migrant boats a week before court challenge 2 months ago

Ministers drop plans to turn back Channel migrant boats a week before court challenge

Campaign groups argued the plans to use 'turnaround tactics' on migrant boats went against human rights laws

The government has dropped its plans to turn back migrant boats attempting to cross the Channel from Calais, just a week before they were set to be challenged in court.

The policy would have meant that Border Force patrols could intercept boats and take them back to France. Campaigners against the plans said that this would be inhumane and a risk to life.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), one of the groups against the plans, said the government u-turn was a "humiliating climbdown."

The PCS, Care4Calais, Channel Rescue and Freedom from Torture had been ready to take the government to court over the proposals, with a three day hearing scheduled for May 3.

The groups argued that Border Force does not have the legal authority to push vessels back, and that if they did this would go against migrants' human rights.

But the Home Office has now dropped the policy, with the Royal Navy taking charge alongside Border Force in responding to migrant boats in the Channel.

Neither will have the authority to use "turnaround tactics."

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "This humiliating climbdown by the government is a stunning victory for Home Office workers and for refugees.

"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."

But the Home Office has insisted its plans "fully" complied with "both domestic and international law."

A spokesperson said: "The entire government is united in our efforts to prevent these lethal crossings and break the business model of the criminal gangs exploiting people.

"It is right that we consider all safe and legal options to stop these unnecessary journeys, including turning boats around."

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They added: "As we have set out previously, this tactic fully complies with both domestic and international law. However, there are extremely limited circumstances when you can safely turn boats back in the English Channel."

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