Civil service union boss refuses to rule out BOYCOTTING government’s ‘illegal’ Rwanda asylum plan 


Fears of Whitehall revolt as civil service union boss refuses to rule out his staff BOYCOTTING what he calls the government’s ‘illegal’ Rwanda asylum plan 

  • Now civil servants union is threatening action over govt’s Rwanda asylum plan 
  • PCS boss Mark Serwotka refused to rule out a boycott of the ‘illegal’ scheme
  • Public and Commercial Services Union represents 80% of Border Force staff
  • Relationship between Priti Patel and civil servants is close to breaking point 

Ministers appeared to be on a collision course with the civil servants’ union last night, after its leader said his members should not have to work on the controversial policy of sending migrants to Rwanda.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), refused to rule out a boycott of the scheme, which he considers ‘illegal’.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he insisted that his union, which represents 80 per cent of Border Force staff, would continue to fight the scheme, saying: ‘These atrocious proposals will be found to be illegal.’

Despite a High Court judge on Friday dismissing a bid by campaigners to halt the first flight to Rwanda, Mr Serwotka said the plans ‘have been condemned, not just by Prince Charles seemingly, but by the Archbishop of Canterbury, all the leading charities, the UNHCR [the UN refugee agency] and indeed the workers who I represent who have been told to do these dreadful things’.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), refused to rule out a boycott of the Rwanda asylum scheme, which he considers ‘illegal’

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), refused to rule out a boycott of the Rwanda asylum scheme, which he considers ‘illegal’

The already strained relationship between Home Secretary Priti Patel and her civil servants has come close to breaking point over the Government’s latest bid to tackle the migrant crisis.

The already strained relationship between Home Secretary Priti Patel and her civil servants has come close to breaking point over the Government’s latest bid to tackle the migrant crisis. 

The PCS union and the migration charities Detention Action and Care4Calais will tomorrow go to the Court of Appeal in a renewed bid to block the first flight, scheduled for Tuesday. In a second, separate High Court claim, the refugee charity Asylum Aid will also seek an injunction to block the flights.

Asked repeatedly if his members would refuse to work on the policy, Mr Serwotka – who is paid £95,000 a year plus more than £15,000 in other perks – said: ‘Our members are involved in this process from start to finish. It’s the case in the Home Office that there is unprecedented opposition to this policy.

‘We will talk to our members about what they will do, but we are confident that we will win the legal case. Our members should not be in a position that they are being asked to do things that could potentially be [found] to be illegal.’

The already strained relationship between Home Secretary Priti Patel and her civil servants has come close to breaking point over the Government’s latest bid to tackle the migrant crisis.

After Friday’s court verdict, Ms Patel said: ‘People will continue to try to prevent [migrants’] relocation through legal challenges and last-minute claims, but we will not be deterred in breaking the deadly people-smuggling trade and ultimately saving lives.’

In one incident last week, posters comparing Paddington Bear to an illegal immigrant, said to have been posted on Home Office noticeboards, spread on social media.

The Rwanda asylum plan aims to counter people-trafficking gangs that bring people to the UK from across the English Channel in deadly dinghy crossings

The Rwanda asylum plan aims to counter people-trafficking gangs that bring people to the UK from across the English Channel in deadly dinghy crossings

Stamped with the Immigration Enforcement crest, the poster mockingly said Paddington’s arrival in the UK was through a ‘clandestine irregular route, using small boat, without visa’. Referring to the Jubilee skit with the Queen, it added that Paddington ‘may have infiltrated important establishment networks, including Buckingham Palace’.

One senior Home Office source last night told The Mail on Sunday: ‘One of the problems with the civil service union publicly attacking the policy is that a lot of the union’s own members, including senior Home Office staff, are proud to work on the scheme.

‘If they don’t want to work on it, their choice is quite simple. It’s not compulsory to be a civil servant.’

Under the policy, some of those entering the UK illegally will be flown to Rwanda to apply for asylum and, if accepted, will be free to start a new life there.

Home Office officials initially told 130 migrants – most of whom had travelled across the Channel on small boats since May 1 – that they could be sent to Rwanda on the first flight. That group included people from Albania, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan Algeria, Eritrea and Vietnam.

But only 31 migrants are now scheduled on Tuesday’s flight after lawyers for at least 90 of them launched legal action. A further five, including two Albanians and an Iraqi, had their removal notices withdrawn on Friday after they claimed to be the victims of modern slavery.

Lawyers for most, if not all, of the remaining 31 are thought to have submitted legal challenges against their clients’ removal. The majority are understood to be based on modern slavery legislation or the right to respect for family and private life in the Human Rights Act.

Posters comparing Paddington Bear to an illegal immigrant, said to have been posted on Home Office noticeboards, spread on social media

Posters comparing Paddington Bear to an illegal immigrant, said to have been posted on Home Office noticeboards, spread on social media

The Desir Resort Hotel, which is one of the locations expected to house some of the asylum-seekers due to be sent from Britain to Rwanda, in the capital Kigali

The Desir Resort Hotel, which is one of the locations expected to house some of the asylum-seekers due to be sent from Britain to Rwanda, in the capital Kigali

The Home Office source said the chartered flight would leave on Tuesday ‘even if only one migrant is on the plane’. A team of Border Force staff and contractors will accompany the migrants.

Even if the Rwanda policy survives an expected blizzard of legal challenges from immigration lawyers, charities, unions and Left-wing activists, officials expect only low numbers to be taken to Africa.

They do believe, however, that it will act as a deterrent to those tempted to risk their lives by making the journey across the Channel and in the process line the pockets of brutal human-trafficking gangs. The Mail on Sunday revealed last month that up to ten migrants have already dropped their asylum claims after the Rwanda policy was unveiled. While the number is small, officials consider it symbolic.

More than 10,000 migrants have already crossed the Channel this year and officials fear that could hit more than 60,000 by the end of the year. In 2018, it was about 300.

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