Priti Patel faces 3 legal challenges over refugee pushbacks

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Priti Patel faces 3 legal challenges over refugee pushbacks

Priti Patel is facing three legal challenges due to her plans to push back refugees on small boats in the Channel who are trying to reach the UK.

Several charities including Channel Rescue and Care 4 Calais are involved in two linked challenges arguing that Patel's plans are unlawful under human rights and maritime laws. Freedom from Torture is involved in a third challenge.

The Guardian has revealed that government lawyers have warned Patel that she is likely to lose any legal challenge against her pushbacks policy.

The Home Office hasn't formulated a policy on pushbacks, as a result of the first legal challenge from Care 4 Calais and another charity. If such a policy exists, it should be published so that it can be scrutinised.

The second challenge, from Channel Rescue, a human rights organisation that monitors the situation for refugees crossing the Channel in small boats, is the breach of maritime law. The requirement under the UN convention on the law of the sea is for vessels to provide assistance to those in danger or distress at sea.

The turnback policy has no legal basis, authorises unlawful conduct by UK officials and is forbidden by the refugee convention.

Government sources told media outlets in September that a Border Force team had been training for months in preparation for the start of the operation. Days later, Channel Rescue volunteers saw Border Force officials on jet skis practising turning around dinghies off the coast of Kingsdown in Kent.

Jeremy Bloom, a solicitor at Duncan Lewis representing the charities in the first challenge, said that the Home Office has been briefed by the press and parliament to say they have a policy in place that allows them to force asylum seekers to leave UK territorial waters. The claimants are of the view that any policy will be in breach of the UK's obligations under international and domestic law, and that attempts to push back boats may put the lives of asylum seekers and refugees in real danger. Clare Moseley, the founder of Care 4 Calais, said: Pushbacks prioritise politics over people's lives. Refugees are innocent people who were just unfortunate enough to be born in the wrong place. They are asking for our help. Kim Bryan of Channel Rescue said that its volunteers witnessed a practice run by Border Force officials using jet skis to surround a dinghy on both sides and push it from the back. Bryan said that this is life-threatening and unlawful. We have given Home Office until November 29 to respond to our pre-action protocol letter. If we don't get a response by then we will issue judicial review proceedings. A Home Office spokeswoman said: To protect lives and break up criminal gangs facilitating these crossings it is right that we continue to evaluate and test a range of safe and legal options to find ways to stop small boats making this dangerous and unnecessary journey.