UK talking to Ghanaian government about how it can help alleviate immigration problems, now-deleted tweet suggests

·3-min read

The UK is talking to the government in Ghana about ways it can help alleviate the UK's immigration problems, according to a tweet issued by the Ghanaian Foreign Ministry.

Human rights campaigners have raised concern the now-deleted tweet could mean there are discussions for some asylum seekers to be housed and processed in Ghana.

The tweet was posted on 30 August and shows a picture of a virtual meeting between the UK's Africa Minister, James Duddridge, and Ghanian Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey.

It said: "During the meeting, the Hon. Minister and the RT. Hon. discussed issues of mutual interest between Ghana and the UK, particularly in areas of security and migration, notably in matters relating to third-country asylum partnerships as the UK makes plans to reform its asylum system and tackle illegal migration."

The tweet also thanked the UK government for the donation of 249,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Colin Yeo, a human rights barrister at Garden Court Chambers, told Sky News: "The plan the UK has is to send asylum seekers to another country where that country will take responsibility for taking decisions on their claims.

"It's conceivable the UK government has been talking to the Ghanaian government about this asylum off-shoring plan that the government says it wants to do.

"It's thought to be talking to other countries about it so it's perfectly possible that's under discussion.

"It looks like a really bad idea from a humanitarian and legal point of view because once the UK removes someone to a third country whether it's Ghana or somewhere else essentially they lose control over what happens there.

"You'd have to detain people in camps in case they try to resume their journey to the UK. The conditions of detention might well be far less than ideal and that would breach the human rights of the migrants."

The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office refused to give any details about the tweet but said: "On Wednesday 18 August, Minister Duddridge held a virtual meeting with Ghanaian Foreign Minister Botchwey on a range of policy issues."

After evacuating thousands of refugees from Afghanistan and an influx of thousands of migrants crossing the Channel illegally in small boats there is increasing pressure on the government to fix what is already called its '"broken asylum system".

And with so many arrivals there are concerns about the pressure on finding accommodation for new arrivals - starkly highlighted in a letter by the Immigration Minister Kevin Foster to MPs looking into immigration facilities.

In the letter, dated 27 August, he wrote; "Hotel availability is impacted by the work currently underway to bring Afghan families to safety, the provision of Managed Quarantine Service accommodation and the revival of our domestic tourism industry as lockdown restrictions have been removed across the UK."

The letter went on: "The accommodation at Napier was set up in response to the enormous pressures placed on our asylum system by the coronavirus pandemic. These pressures remain and are being exacerbated by the unprecedented rise in dangerous and illegal small boat crossings."

Sky News visited the Napier accommodation centre in Folkestone in Kent to speak to asylum seekers waiting for their applications to be processed.

A former army barracks, it's a vast and controversial site which campaigners insist isn't suitable for those fleeing conflict.

It was due to close. Now the government says - with improvements - it will stay open until 2025.

Critics are concerned it's being used as a test for large scale migration reception centres.

Outside Napier we met Jamshid and Hoijit from Iran who told us they had arrived in the UK in June after crossing the channel by small boat.

They described the accommodation as like a "jail".

Sky News was given a video a few weeks ago showing open-plan sleeping accommodation separated by curtains.

Jamshid said: "(We have) difficulty sleeping. It's not very good. There are a lot of people that make a noise in the night and no one has space."

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