BARAC UK, the UK Government’s ‘Hostile Environment’ policies, and countless deaths of refugees hoping to claim asylum.

BARAC UK are a well known and well respected UK campaigning organisation, fighting against racism, injustice and austerity and for refugee and migrant rights.

In Autumn 2021, the UK Government instructed Border Force agencies to start turning away small boats of migrants hoping to cross the channel and seek asylum in the UK, in line with its ‘Hostile Environment’ policies.

The dangerous crossing conditions meant that they would almost certainly drown on the way back across the channel. The policy was effectively sentencing them to death. 

This ‘turnaround’ policy was also in breach of UN humanitarian laws, and contradicted the UK’s own laws on supporting asylum.

BARAC launched their petition, followed by national press coverage, speaking engagements and a protest. 

Something had to give. BARAC UK launched a hard-hitting petition on ActionStorm and started to spread it amongst their supporters. 

The petition got off to a strong start with supporters signing and sharing the petition with their networks, and it quickly gathered national news coverage.

In the face of public pressure, the government fought back. The (then) UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, doubled down and announced the military would step in to help enforce the policy. Meanwhile, the government’s own lawyers were privately advising that they would likely lose if legally challenged on the policy.

Every day, the migrant death toll from channel crossings became worse, and the press continued their widespread coverage of the issue.

BARAC UK added a crowdfunding page to their petition, and used it to raise funds for their humanitarian efforts, delivering food and essentials to refugees on the French border. Donations raised from petition supporters after signing totalled an additional £500 which helped contribute to essential aid.

As the campaign ramped up, BARAC joined civil society groups from across the UK to form the ‘Citizenship is a right’ coalition, and stage several protests against the upcoming ‘Nationality and Borders Bill’, something that would have further penalised refugees seeking asylum

Sustained public pressure finally led to a defeat for the government.

Through sustained protest from BARAC UK and other prominent organisations, public pressure from news coverage, defeats of the upcoming bill in the House of Lords, and a legal challenge in the courts, the government had no choice but to do a U turn and retract the policy. 

The Ministry of Defence later admitted that they had no jurisdiction to push back boats of refugees – something BARAC had made clear from the very start.

While this battle was won, the fight is far from over, and BARAC continues in their fight against racist immigration policies in the UK.

Campaign highlights

  • 1,550 signatures
  • 420 comments of support
  • 808 new subscribers to BARAC UK’s email list (52%)
  • The petition had over 400 shares across various social media platforms
  • National news coverage in the Morning Star and others
  • Additional £500 raised for humanitarian efforts from signatories
  • Victory after 6 months

“This issue was essential to pursue because it was literally a matter of life and death”

“It was in response to a breach of human rights which was directed at black and brown people disproportionately, so racist in addition.

“The pushback of small boats of refugees was a breach of human rights and maritime laws and a horrific abuse on people who were already extremely vulnerable and were on those boats because they had no other choice and no safe passage afforded to them.

“As campaigners, we campaigned in multiple ways and worked others to successfully stop the pushback policy. Launching a petition  was one of many actions and activities.

“It was our first time launching a petition on the ActionStorm platform and we received great support from the team and it was an important way of raising wider awareness of the issues and getting people involved in wider campaigning. We were also able to make a link via the petition  site with our crowdfunding page, raising funds for causes directly linked and led to us reaching new supporters and donors.

“We really appreciated the personalised support from the platform hosts to make our campaign a success and most importantly  protect human beings from this horrific abuse.”

– Zita Holbourne, Founder, BARAC UK

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