UK Border Force could be given immunity over refugee deaths
Priti Patel has called on the UK's Border Force to 'push back' migrant boats
Border Force staff who follow Priti Patel's plans to turn away and "push back" migrant boats in the Channel could be given immunity from conviction if a refugee dies as a result.
This is according to officials. who have confirmed that the Home Secretary is looking to introduce a provision in the nationality and borders bill that would give border staff protection in the event of a drowning.
It would be up to a court to decide whether this provision would protect an officer from conviction under maritime laws though.
There is an argument to say that Patel's new proposals do not adhere to maritime law.
More than 17,000 migrants have crossed the Channel this year, which is more than double the number that crossed last year.
Last month, the Home Office said that it was training border staff to push back small boats.
The new bill is currently at the committee stage and aims to deter illegal entry to the UK. It would mean anyone arriving in the UK via an illegal route could have their asylum claim denied and even face a jail sentence of up to four years.
According to the Guardian, the part of the bill that would give border staff immunity in the event of a death is Schedule 4A, part A1, paragraph J1.
This reads: "A relevant officer is not liable in any criminal or civil proceedings for anything done in the purported performance of functions under this part of this schedule if the court is satisfied that (a) the act was done in good faith, and (b) there were reasonable grounds for doing it."
But the UN convention on the law of the sea says that "every state" is required to "render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost."
Home Office sources have said that the provision is part of the "new plan for immigration" and complies with all international obligations, including the European convention on human rights and the UN refugee convention.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "As part of our ongoing response to these dangerous crossings, we continue to evaluate and test a range of safe and legal options for stopping small boats.
"All operational procedures used at sea comply and are delivered in accordance with domestic and international law.
"We will fix the broken asylum system through our new plan for immigration, break the business model of people smugglers who put lives at risk and welcome people through safe and legal route."
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