PCS Joins Legal Challenge of Government Asylum Pushback Policy

We are proud to publish the following article by James Cox, President Home Office group (personal capacity) and Left Unity member.

The continued refugee crisis involving small boats crossing the channel has been ongoing for several years now but has recently received much more scrutiny. PCS members working in the Home Office have been at the front line of this. Members have been deeply affected by the amount and intensity of the work and traumatised by the things they have seen.

Individuals have shown barely believable desperation and determination as they attempt life threatening, dangerous journeys across the channel in flimsy vessels. This culminated on the 25 November when at least 27 people tragically died trying to cross the channel. As further stories about the individuals emerge, their backgrounds, names and reasons for travel, the disaster becomes more real and ever more heart-breaking.

Ministers have of course been quick to condemn the criminal gangs exploiting many of these individuals and restated their desire to stop the crossings. However, the absence of safe routes to claim asylum in the UK means that many people feel that they have no choice but to try to make these crossings.

There have been protests around the country demanding safe passage for refugees

Although recently published migration figures show that asylum applications are at their highest since 2004, these are still below levels of applications in France and many other European countries. Furthermore, recent figures show that nearly two thirds of applicants are granted some form of protection status, putting a lie to any claims of widespread abuse of the system.

Unsurprisingly some have tried to exploit the crisis with an article in the Times questioning the 1951 Refugee Convention and Conservative MPs in Parliament talk about scrapping the Human Rights Act which enshrines the European Convention of Human Rights in UK law. These laws and international treaties may well be imperfect, but they are attempts to create a better and less barbarous world. PCS members charged with upholding and implementing these laws in the Home Office take pride in this.

Our members in Border Force have also been at the forefront of rescuing individuals at risk during crossing. Lives have been saved. But in a well-publicised move the Home Secretary wishes to implement a new policy involving ‘pushbacks’ a process of attempting to direct small boats back to France. This is an inherently dangerous policy, which appears to place border control over the safety of individuals.

We have a duty to ensure our members are protected and operating inside the law, and if this means questioning whether Ministers instigating policies are operating lawfully then our union must challenge this. That’s why PCS is joining the charity Care4Calais in a joint Judicial Review which seeks disclosure of the ‘pushback’ policy and subsequent challenge of this.

It’s easy when looking at the news and statistics to forget the people involved. Every person crossing the channel is an individual with their own history, family, and reasons for coming to the UK. Many of us may know refugees in our families, communities, and workplaces. I’m proud that my union is linking those affected by the policy with those forced to implement it.

For more details about Care4Calais click here

For details of solidarity vigils click here

Massive marches demand real action to stop climate change

Hundreds of thousands of people joined marches on November 6th called in response to the COP26 conference in Glasgow.

Bristol

Reports include 100,000 in Glasgow, 20,000 in London and several thousand in all the major cities.

Birmingham
Cardiff

This is a massive step forward in the movement to force our government to take real action to halt climate change. Across the demonstrations there was a recognition that Boris Johnson’s government is more interested in Greenwashing the market and profits than they are in saving the planet.

The PCS should be proud of the role that we have played in the movement. We have been involved in the COP26 Coalition, which called the protests, from the beginning, both nationally and in many areas. However there is a lot more to do to make sure that we mobilise our members to engage in the protests. We also need to be developing our network of green reps and fighting for them to have power in the workplace.

PCS Left Unity NEC members spoke at a number of rallies, raising our campaigns and demands in the wider movement.

Sarah Ensor, Manchester
Glasgow

November 6th is the start of a new stage of campaigning for a Just Transition from a carbon economy. To achieve Climate Justice we need Social Justice, as the slogan goes we need system change not climate change. There is a real debate to be had in the trade union movement about the way forward. Many fear that a transition from a carbon economy will lead to job losses. We need retraining and quality green jobs to be able to use the skills of workers displaced by a climate transition, and we need to win this debate urgently.

Report from Glasgow

On 6th November, I joined my PCS comrades on the Trade Union Bloc of the Glasgow COP26 march. It was a wet, windy November day in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park, however we were not about to let this dampen our spirits. With 50 or so PCS activists joining a march of reportedly 100,000, we took our banners, flags and placards and assembled, ready to head off at 11:30, however there were delays in getting set off, which is often the case.

The Trade Union Bloc was then split in half by the police to allow Extinction Rebellion in, and it was closer to 2pm by the time we were eventually moving. The frustrations from standing about waiting and not knowing what was going on soon wore off and there was a steady flow once we got moving, until we got to St Vincent Street where we came to a halt.

London

We saw police moving down the street in large numbers and knew something was going on. The chants of “Let them go!” from the crowd confirmed this, and it turned out that the police were kettling a handful of protesters from Living Rent and Young Communist League. From reports I have seen, they held them for 2 hours before letting them go.

Hannah David, Bristol

Whilst this hold up did mean some people left the march, by the time we got moving again there were still a large number marching. We eventually got to Glasgow Green, however with all that had happened it was far later than we had hoped to get there. The march was still going strong though with thousands still on their way to the green. Unfortunately I didn’t manage in to the main area to see any speakers that were still to speak, but reports from some who did was that there were some brilliant speeches.

All in all an eventful day, which I won’t forget any time soon, and despite the hold ups it was good to be with so many like-minded people marching for the same cause.

Liz McGachey