British Home Secretary 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.
In a move aimed to discourage hazardous English Channel crossings, she has opened talks with Denmark over sharing a holding centre in Africa, The Times has reported.
The Nationality and Borders Bill, which will be introduced next week, will include a provision that will allow the government to create immigration processing centres for asylum seekers outside of the UK for the first time.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly backing the plans after 315 migrants made the dangerous journey across the English Channel from France in small boats over the past weekend, taking this year’s total of illegal arrivals to 5,676.
Denmark passed a similar bill last month with the Scandinavian nation said to be planning to send asylum seekers to a centre to be constructed in Rwanda.
The policy is also similar to the German far-right AfD party’s demands to have “asylum centres” in North Africa.
The Home Office has also studied Australia’s policy, which bans asylum seekers arriving in small boats and transfers any that arrive to offshore immigration accommodation centres in states such as Papua New Guinea.
Charities and lawmakers hit out at the plans calling offshore processing cruel.
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 Scottish National Party’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. We treat people with respect and dignity. This is inhumane in the extreme. Where is our humanity?
The revised plans come after the Home Office considered asking a number of overseas British territories to become holding centres and a diplomatic row ensued with Gibraltar and the Isle of Man.
Other tentative plans discussed included sending asylum seekers to Ascension Island, an isolated volcanic island in the South Atlantic Ocean more than 6,000km from the UK, to be processed.
Other suggestions included turning disused cross-channel ferries out at sea into processing centres. The government dismissed these plans as “blue-sky” thinking.
A Home Office policy statement 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”.
It added that, if left unchecked, “illegal immigration puts unsustainable pressures on public services”.
In May, responding to the news that Danish authorities had signed an agreement with the Rwandan government to potentially send asylum-seekers to be processed in Rwanda, Amnesty International’s Europe director, Nils Muižnieks, said:
“Any attempt to transfer asylum-seekers arriving in Denmark to Rwanda for their asylum claims to be processed would be not only unconscionable, but potentially unlawful. Denmark cannot deny the right of those arriving in Denmark to seek asylum and transfer them to a third country without the required guarantees.
“These proposals take refugee protection by EU governments to a new low, and would set a dangerous precedent in Europe and globally.”