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18th Mar 2021

Priti Patel considering deporting asylum seekers thousands of miles abroad for processing

The extreme new policy will see thousands of asylum seekers deported from the UK while awaiting decisions on their their asylum claims 

Nadine Batchelor-Hunt

The extreme new policy from the home secretary would see thousands of asylum seekers deported from the UK while awaiting decisions on their their asylum claims 

The Home Office are considering a change in law so asylum seekers crossing the Channel into the UK are deported to third countries for processing before they are granted refugee status or returned to their country of origin. 

The third countries being considered as part of the plans include Isle of Man, Gibraltar, Turkey, and Morocco.

The Times reported that asylum seekers reaching the UK from a safe country would have their asylum claims deemed as “inadmissible.”

It is believed that the government are also considering offering money to countries if they take the asylum seekers.

This comes after leaked plans last year in which Patel appeared to be mulling over using moored ferries, or remote islands, to process asylum seekers.

One of the islands considered was Ascension Island – which is a British territory more than 4,000 miles away off the coast of Africa; Labour described the plans as “inhumane, completely impractical and wildly expensive.”

In these leaked plans, it also emerged that the home secretary had considered using wave machines to deter asylum seekers attempting to cross the Channel in dinghies.

It is likely the Home Office’s new proposals that emerged last night are seeking to copy Australia – who also use this controversial method of processing refugees.

There, asylum seekers that attempt to enter the country by sea are sent to accommodation in neighbouring states – such as Papua New Guinea. 

It would not be the first time the government have introduced Australia-inspired border policy; the Conservatives 2019 manifesto pledged to implement an Australia-style “points based” system on immigration post-Brexit.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council charity, has lambasted the government’s new plans on asylum seekers.

“We know from the Australian model that offshore detention leads to appalling outcomes including high levels of self-harm and mental illness,” they said.

“It is an inhumane policy that undermines our nation’s proud tradition of providing protection to people fleeing persecution and terror – many of whom have gone on to work as doctors and nurses in the NHS.” 

A Home Office source has claimed that the new plans are aiming to “break the link” between crossing the Channel in a dinghy or a lorry in France to settling in the UK. 

“If people know that they are not going to get to stay in the UK then they are less likely to make that perilous journey,” they said. 

Sources claim that the governments new plans will come in tandem with new places to create more “legal safe routes” for refugees to come to the UK from war zones. 

Shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, said: “The Tories are lurching from one inhumane, ridiculous proposal to another.

“Last year they were talking about creating waves in the English Channel to wash boats back and buying ferries and oil rigs to process asylum claims.”

He added: “These absurd ideas show the Government has lost control and all sense of compassion.

“Ministers must act to reopen safe routes, as promised, and deliver the promised agreement with France.”

It is likely the proposals will be fiercely opposed by human rights lawyers and activists in the UK. 

Under international law, asylum seekers have a right to claim asylum in any country they wish to.

However, it is understood that Patel wishes to stop “asylum shopping” – with a Home Office source claiming “there is no justification for people travelling through safe countries like France in order to claim asylum in the UK.” 

The news comes after the Home Office has come under pressure to close an inhumane camp set up for refugee processing at Napier Barracks, near Folkestone.

In January more than half its residents contracted Covid-19, and last week the HM Inspectorate of Prisons and the independent chief inspector of Borders and Immigration described the conditions as “filthy and “impoverished”.