UK border force practice 'pushback' tactics to stop migrants
UK border forces were seen practicing heavily-criticised "pushback" tactics, approved by the UK Home Office, along the British coast on Monday.
Footage shared by UK refugee organisation Channel Rescue showed dinghies full of Border Force staff wearing life jackets surrounded by jet skis circling and nudging small boats.
It is suspected they were practicing forceful turnarounds of migrant boats - a technique authorised by the UK Home Secretary Priti Patel last week, met with condemnation from refugee charities and human rights activists.
"It gives me the chills," Maddie Harris from Humans for Rights Network to The New Arab.
Harris said Border Force staff were packed tightly onto the dinghy, sitting close to the edge of the vessel.
It is thought they were performing in a training exercise as migrants who attempt the dangerous journey across the English Channel in the hope of finding refuge in the UK.
"I'm not sure whether this is a performance or a training exercise," commented Harris.
LIVE UPDATE: We're currently witnessing what looks like pushback drills by Border Force jet skis in the Channel. We're not 100% sure but two jet skis appear to be doing circling manoeuvres around dinghies with Border Force vessels full of people looking on. We’re 👀 @ukhomeoffice pic.twitter.com/c2kgciTLMp— Channel Rescue (@ChannelRescue) September 13, 2021
The UK Home Office refused to confirm whether it had been carrying out exercises on forcing boats in the Channel to return to France, according to BBC correspondent Simon Jones.
Last week, reports revealed that Patel sought legal advice for Border Force vessels to start using the intimation tactic amid growing tensions with her French counterpart over Channel crossings.
"The practice of pushbacks... is illegal under international maritime law. This aggressive and violent behaviour puts the lives of those making the crossing at greater risk," wrote Channel Rescue on Twitter in a post shared over 300 times.
"People fleeing war and persecution are legally entitled to claim asylum in Britain and so we stand in solidarity with those making the crossing," wrote the organisation.
Around 163 migrants in seven boats reached the UK on Monday, according to Jones. More than 12,000 people have arrived on British shores via small boats so far this year.
Around 15,000 people are currently in government-run accommodation awaiting a verdict on their asylum claims, some of whom made the dangerous journey across the Channel months ago.
Harris said the increased resources and training exercises along the coast are all "noise" to divert attention from the broken asylum system and poor conditions of government-run accommodation.