The Government wants to change the law so it can keep the option of offshore processing for asylum seekers “open”, details of its new immigration plan confirm.
A Home Office policy statement on the Government’s proposals said the UK’s asylum system is “too easily exploited by people-smugglers and does little to disincentivise individuals from attempting to enter the UK illegally”, adding that, if left unchecked, “illegal immigration puts unsustainable pressures on public services”.
Among a series of measures proposed to overhaul the system, it said: “We will also amend Sections 77 and 78 of the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 so that it is possible to move asylum seekers from the UK while their asylum claim or appeal is pending.
“This will keep the option open, if required in the future, to develop the capacity for offshore asylum processing – in line with our international obligations.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Home Secretary Priti Patel confirmed the UK will look at sending migrants overseas to process asylum claims and that deals could be sought with foreign nations.
So far both Gibraltar and the Isle of Man have rejected suggestions the they could house sites.
It comes after a series of leaks last year suggested that ministers were considering a number of offshore policies akin to those used in Australia.
These included sending asylum seekers to Ascension Island, more than 4,000 miles from the UK, to be processed, and turning disused ferries out at sea into processing centres.
In the foreword to the policy document, Ms Patel said: “The UK has a proud history of being open to the world. Global Britain will continue in that tradition.
“Our society is enriched by legal immigration. We are a better country for it.
“We recognise the contribution of those who have come to the UK lawfully and helped build our public services, businesses, culture and communities, and we always will.
“We also take pride in fulfilling our moral responsibility to support refugees fleeing peril around the world.”
But she warned “the challenge of illegal immigration” must be addressed in order to “properly control our borders”, describing the plans as a “comprehensive reform of our asylum system” that will make “big changes, building a new system that is fair but firm”.