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Channel Rescue launches legal action against British Home Secretary’s plans to push refugees back to France

At least 30 people drown in the Channel today in an ‘macabre coincidence’ with the group’s announcement

AN ACTIVIST group is to take British Home Secretary Priti Patel to court over her plans to have the UK Border Force push refugee boats in the Channel back to France.

Channel Rescue, a grassroots human rights monitoring organisation based on the south coast of England, announced the legal action this afternoon and called on their supporters to help raise the legal costs.

In September, the group witnessed UK Border Force vessels taking part in drills that resembled the illegal practice of refugee pushbacks.

Channel Rescue said in a statement today that it’s volunteers “saw staff on jet skis surrounding a dinghy on both sides and pushing it from the back during a practice run.” 

This came just a week after Ms Patel referred to a new policy on pushbacks, the details of which have yet to be announced.

“Channel Rescue’s legal challenge is based on British and international maritime law, which stipulates that nobody at sea should endanger another vessel, and that anyone in danger at sea should be rescued,” the group said.

“The Home Office’s plans are in stark contrast to these legal obligations. Seeking to turn around boats carrying migrants will inevitably risk the lives of children, women and men who want nothing more than sanctuary.

“We believe the plans are not only morally wrong – they are also unlawful. So, we’re bringing a case against Priti Patel, Secretary of State for the Home Office, to ensure that this inhumane and life-threatening policy is never approved or put into action.

“We need your support to stop the government from implementing this policy, and to continue campaigning for safe routes for people who need to seek sanctuary in Britain.”

Channel Rescue’s announcement came just minutes before French Interior Minister Gerald Darn tweeted about a shipwreck in the English Channel.

Later this evening, Calais and Boulogne head of port Jean-Marc Puissesseau told the BBC that there were likely 50 people on the boat and that 29 bodies had been found so far.

Channel Rescue activist Richard told The Civil Fleet today that it was a “bizarre and macabre coincidence” to hear about the deaths on the same day that they announced their legal action.

“France is being painted by the UK government as going easy on the people there trying to cross over the Channel. But they have also created a hostile environment in northern France, which is why we’re seeing crossings at this time of year. People are desperate to get out.

“Because of the crack down around Calais and Dunkirk, people are increasingly leaving from further south, a journey that is much longer, about 18 hours in some cases, and of course far more dangerous. We’ve had landings as far west as Dungeness and Hastings.

“We’ve also witnessed people being picked up in handmade boats with around 60 people in them. One vessel we saw was a raft made of MDF, a type of wood that’s used to make shelves.

“We’re moving inevitably towards a humanitarian tragedy in the Channel. And the death toll will not stop rising until safe routes are open.”

Update: November 25

Speaking to The Civil Fleet about yesterday’s disaster, Alarm Phone activist Jacob Berkson said: “These deaths are a direct consequence of the border policies pursued by the UK and French governments.

“Culpability and criminal responsibility lie with Priti Patel, Boris Johnson, Gérald Darmanin and Emanuel Macron.

“Talk by the powerful of smuggling networks is an attempt to deflect responsibility for the deadly consequences of their own racist politics. People have been trapped in Calais and forced onto deadlier and deadlier routes since at least the late ’90s.

“The numbers of people crossing the channel is no higher than in recent times. The military fortifications around the port of Calais and the channel tunnel mean that people now have to take to small boats to exercise their freedom of movement.

“Further securitisation of the Pas-de-Calais region will only increase the loss of life. People will move north and east to Belgium and Holland and south and west to Normandy to attempt the crossing.

“This is exactly the dynamic that we have seen in Morocco. When the Moroccan government locked down its Mediterranean border to black Africans, people went south to Western Sahara and now make for the Canary Islands across the Atlantic.

“The death toll on that route is as high as one in five. It has not reduced the number of people trying to cross.

“We also set our faces against calls for ‘safe passage and humanitarian visas’. This is a nonsense fiction being peddled by the UK establishment and echoed by so-called pro-refugee NGOs.

“People who are as at home in Delhi, Dubai, London, Madrid or Washington wish to regulate the movement of the vast majority of the world’s population. It allows them to maintain a racist world order.

“As we saw with their response to the collapse of the US backed government in Afghanistan, the UK government proposes to issue such “humanitarian visas” to a tiny number of hand-picked “deserving” individuals. The remainder will be left to languish under canvas for generations.

“The only way to make such a scheme remotely palatable would be to issue millions of such visas a year. At that point, the UK government may as well give up the fantasy of “regulating” migration and let people access the safe and legal ferries that cross the channel on an hourly basis.”

You can support Channel Rescue’s crowdfunder here:

Published by The Civil Fleet

A news blog and podcast focused on the activist-led refugee rescue and support missions across Fortress Europe

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