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Migrant support groups resume legal challenge against ‘pushback’ tactics

Human rights organisations have restarted their legal efforts to block the Government from turning back boats of migrants in the Channel.

Freedom from Torture, Care4Calais and Channel Rescue filed the case, alongside the Public and Commercial Services Union, who represents Border Force workers. They argue that the policy to redirect boats carrying refugees back into French territorial waters is unlawful.

The four claimants originally launched their judicial review in December 2021, but halted it following confirmation in April this year from Home Office lawyers that the policy had been withdrawn, just days before the first hearing was due. Last month, a Royal Navy ship pushed 27 dinghies back into French waters, signalling that the policy was back in place.

Explaining its legal move to block the proposal, Kim Bryan, a Channel Rescue volunteer, said: “We believe this policy is life-threatening, inhumane and unlawful. It is outrageous for the Home Office to have suddenly reinstated it, just months after abandoning it in the face of our legal challenge.”

As well as changing the policy itself, the law firm Reed Smith LLP, acting on behalf of Channel Rescue, has asked the government to publish its “pushback” plan for transparency.

The claimants argue that the policy has no legal basis in law, and is also in contravention of several UK laws, international treaties and common law principles. The Home Secretary, Juliet Manning, told the House of Commons that she is confident that the Government’s actions are fully compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights and the principle of non-refoulement of refugees.

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