My eye was caught today by this thread from Colin Yeo, a barrister passionate about immigration law and a campaigner for the rights of all those who fall foul of this government’s hostile environment. He founded and edits the widely-read Free Movement immigration law blog and last year published Welcome to Britain: Fixing Our Broken Immigration System.
Colin’s insights come on the same day as a landmark ruling on trafficking victims in the High Court:
This important thread is reproduced with Colin Yeo’s kind permission.
Did you know the British government plans to make officials immune from criminal and civil court action if a refugee dies during a marine push back operation? It’s in the Nationality and Borders Bill currently before Parliament.
It is currently an offence in UK law to violate the international law obligation to rescue a person in distress at sea, treat them with humanity and take them to a place of safety. Penalty is max 2 yrs under the Merchant Shipping (Safety of Navigation) Regulations 2020.
The Nationality and Borders Bill gives officials and any person accompanying them powers to stop, board, divert or detain boats and passengers in territorial, international and even foreign waters, if authorised by the Home Secretary.
Arguably the most controversial new bit of law, though, is the attempt to immunise officials from the criminal and civil law consequences of their actions:
Frankly, it is not clear that this really does immunise anyone given the ‘reasonable grounds’ qualifier. How can there ever be reasonable grounds for pushing back a small boat loaded with refugees in one of the worlds busiest shipping lanes?
Maybe this is all just more theatrical performance rather than serious policy. It is worrying nonetheless.
Full blog post here on current UK law and the changes proposed by the Nationality and Borders Bill:
And related blog post on international law duty of sea rescue: