UK abandons plans to use navy 'pushback' tactics on refugees crossing English Channel

UK abandons plans to use navy 'pushback' tactics on refugees crossing English Channel
2 min read
18 January, 2022
The UK Royal Navy said the use of 'pushback' tactics on Channel crossings is 'not part of our ethics', following reports that the government plans to give the military responsibility for pursuing their increasingly hostile anti-immigration policy.
A navy source said their immediate task is to restore safety in the English Channel [Getty]

The UK Royal Navy has distanced itself from reports that it will pursue controversial "pushback" tactics on refugees crossing the English Channel, according to local media on Monday. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to put the military in charge of small boat crossings from France to the UK, a move widely believed to be a bid towards saving his faltering premiership, which follows scores of people undertaking the dangerous journey last year. 

However, navy sources said officers had little interest in carrying out the “pushback” policy, spearheaded by the UK Home Office and condemned by leading refugee charities who argue the practice is illegal, according to a report by The Guardian. 

"I'm not sure pushback would work; it's not part of our ethics," said one navy source said, according to the daily. 

The source reportedly argued that their job was to respond to mayday calls at sea and help to save lives. 

"We can't have people drowning in the Channel," they said, referring to an incident in November 2021 when 27 migrants lost their lives after a dingy sunk off the coast of France. 

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The Royal Navy will instead focus on transporting refugees to shore for processing in new migrant hubs, said The Times. 

Yet, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has continued to argue that pushing back migrants to France is "absolutely" government policy. 

There is also speculation that the UK government will pay third countries, such as Ghana and Rwanda, to process asylum applications abroad, as well as confirmed reports that Downing Street experts are looking into the use of powerful sonic weapons to deter Channel crossings. 

"Prime Ministers since Churchill have given people fleeing persecution a fair hearing on UK soil," wrote UK charity Refugee Council on social media Monday. 

"Using the military to repel people, and seeking to actually expel them offshore is both cruel and inhumane." 

The number of migrants and refugees who crossed the English Channel last year was triple the number in 2020, many of whom are fleeing poverty and persecution and taking any route possible to safety.