UK Border Force Threatens Strike over Plan to Make Them Enforce Border

DOVER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 09: Migrants are brought into Dover docks by Border Force staff
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The UK Border Force has again threatened strike action over government plans to implement “pushback” measures to better enforce the British border.

So-called “pushback” measures aiming to better secure the British border from migrants have been referred to as “morally reprehensible” by a union representing members of the UK’s Border Force.

The union, alongside controversial migrant charity Care4Calais, has taken the government to court over the proposal.

Care4Calais has previously published material accusing the British government of lying about refugees, as well as an article which said that migrants crossing from Belarus “have a right to enter Poland as refugees”, despite accusations being levelled at the Belarussian regime of using those migrants as a form of hybrid warfare against Europe.

“The legality of the pushbacks policy is in serious question, and it is right that the court decides whether it is unlawful to turn back Channel boats,” the Public and Commercial Services Union General Secretary, Mark Serwotka, told The Guardian. “We cannot have a situation where our members could be open to potential civil and criminal action for implementing a policy that they do not agree with and know is not safe.”

However, even if the legal action results in UK courts ruling the measures as legal, the union has said it will not necessarily cease its opposition, saying it may consider strike action.

“Although we are hoping for a positive outcome from the legal proceedings, people should be in no doubt PCS strongly opposes this policy, on moral and humanitarian grounds, and we will not rule out industrial action to prevent it being carried out,” Serwotka said.

A spokesman for the UK home office has meanwhile rejected claims that the proposed plans are illegal.

“As part of our ongoing operational response and to prevent further loss of life at sea, we continue to test a range of safe and legal options to stop small boats making this dangerous and unnecessary journey,” the spokesman told The Guardian. “These all comply and are delivered in accordance with both domestic and international law. Our New Plan for Immigration will also overhaul the broken asylum system and reduce many of the historic pull factors.”

This is not the first time the Border Force has threatened strike action over the issue, doing so in late November last year over the same issue.

A record number of over 28,000 migrants crossed the English Channel illegally by boat last year, over three times the number who arrived in the country that way in 2020.

Although the UK government has been pondering a number of measures with the aim of curbing crossings, some believe that the crisis is far from over.

Senior sources in the home office have reportedly claimed that there will be no progress in dealing with France — the immediate source of migrants — in relation to the crisis until after the country’s presidential election is over.

Meanwhile, arch-brexiteer Nigel Farage has predicted that the UK will see “at least 60,000” migrants land on its shores this year, with the Ex-Reform UK leader saying that as many as 80,000 may end up crossing into the UK through the channel in 2022.

“It doesn’t matter what penalty you put on the traffickers, if the incentive is there for those that want to come and pay their 3-5,000 euros — whatever the going rate is at the time — they’ll go on coming,” Farage said.

“I honestly don’t think Boris Johnson’s government will do anything.”


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