Border Force agents could go on strike over plans to push back boats in Channel after at least 27 people died

Head of the PCS union said that suggestions by Tory backbenchers to scrap human rights law ‘shame our country’

Border Force agents could go on strike over the Home Secretary’s suggested plans to turn back small boats in the Channel, following the deaths of 27 people who tried to make the crossing from France.

The head of the trade union which represents civil servants, including Border Force workers, described the plans to push back small boats as “morally reprehensible” and said some of the suggestions by Tory backbenchers “shame our country”.

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At a glance: The key points

  • The trade union which represents border agents has criticised the government’s plans to push back small boats attempting to cross the Channel following the deaths of 27 people who attempted the journey on Wednesday evening
  • PCS has warned that it could mount a legal challenge against Priti Patel’s plans or initiate an industrial response
  • Speaking to NationalWorld, a PCS spokesperson confirmed that the union will keep all options on the table, “up to and including a strike ballot”
  • The union cites Article 98 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (LOSC), which mandates that every state require its ships “to render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost”
  • The Home Office has doubled down on the plans since Wednesday’s incident, with an immigration minister refusing to rule out pushing back boats carrying migrants mid Channel into French waters
  • The Nationality and Borders bill introduced by Priti Patel aims to dissuade people from making the crossing, although in an internal assessment of the legislation it was noted that it could encourage people to “attempt riskier means of entering the UK"
  • Priti Patel has been uninvited from a crisis meeting on Sunday where French, German, Belgian and German home affairs ministers will meet to discuss the issue, following an open letter from Boris Johnson to French President Emmanuel Macron which was described as “unacceptable” by the French interior minister

What’s been said?

Responding to the Channel crossing deaths, Border Force union, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

"The deaths of 27 people in the channel trying to reach the UK, is an absolute tragedy.

"This catastrophe underlines why the safety of migrants trying to reach Britain and that of our Border Force members is paramount.

"It is shocking that the government is suggesting Border Force staff turn boats back, which will clearly be against international law and morally reprehensible.

"Suggestions by Tory backbenchers that the Home Secretary scrap human rights law to deal with boat crossings is outrageous and shames our country.

"PCS is reviewing all its options, including taking out a judicial review against Priti Patel's plans and a possible industrial response."

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