Priti Patel plans to ‘hold asylum seekers in offshore processing centres’ - report

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Home Secretary Priti Patel  (PA Wire)
Home Secretary Priti Patel (PA Wire)

Priti Patel is expected to reveal a bill that will allow the UK to hold asylum seekers in Australian-style offshore processing centres, according to reports.

The Home Secretary has even opened talks with Denmark over sharing a centre in Africa in a move aimed to discourage dangerous Channel crossings, The Times reported.

The Nationality and Borders Bill, which will be introduced next week, will include a provision that will allow the Government to create an offshore immigration processing centre for asylum seekers for the first time.

Boris Johnson is reportedly backing the plans after 315 migrants crossed the Channel over the weekend, taking this year’s total to 5,676.

Ms Patel is seeking advice from Denmark after they passed a similar bill last month with the Scandinavian nation said to be planning to send asylum seekers to a centre in Rwanda.

The Home Office has also studied Australia’s policy, which bans asylum seekers travelling by sea and redirects them to offshore immigration accommodation centres in states such as Papua New Guinea.

A Border Force official holds a young girl that arrived with other migrants after they were picked up in a dinghy in the English Channel (Getty Images)
A Border Force official holds a young girl that arrived with other migrants after they were picked up in a dinghy in the English Channel (Getty Images)

Charities and MPs hit out at the plans calling offshore processing “cruel and brutally hostile”.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council charity, said: “For generations men, women and children seeking protection in the UK have been given a fair hearing on British soil.

“Most have rebuilt their lives as law-abiding citizens making a huge contribution to our communities.

“Offshore processing is an act of cruel and brutal hostility towards vulnerable people who through no fault of their own have had to flee war, oppression and terror.”

The SNP’s Westminster group leader, Ian Blackford tweeted: “If Priti Patel wants to send asylum seekers to Rwanda she will have a fight on her hands. Not in our name. We treat people with respect and dignity. This is inhumane in the extreme. Where is our humanity?

“This Tory Government is prepared to engage in morally reprehensible behaviour,”

An Australian refugee camp on the island of Nauru (AP)
An Australian refugee camp on the island of Nauru (AP)

The policy matches the German far-right AfD party’s demands to have “asylum centres” in North African regions.

It comes after a diplomatic row ensued with Gibraltar and the Isle of Man after the Government considered asking a number of overseas British territories to hold the centres.

Other leaks included plans to send 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. The Government dismissed the plans as “blue-sky” thinking at the time.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our asylum system is broken and we cannot sit idly by while people die attempting to cross the Channel. Our New Plan for Immigration will welcome people through safe and legal routes, whilst preventing abuse of the system and the criminality associated with it.

“We have been looking at what other countries do to deter illegal migration and this work continues. We will not rule out any option that could help reduce the illegal migration and relieve the pressure on the broken asylum system.”

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