It is said that a suggestion to send asylum seekers to a volcanic island, more than 4,000 miles away, in the South Atlantic has been made.
During a recent brainstorming session at Whitehall it is believed that Priti Patel made this suggestion after having asked officials to look into the idea of processing asylum seekers on Ascension Island which is isolated volcanic British territory, and also on St Helena which is part of the same island group, but 800 miles away.
However, it is believed the proposal only arose after Priti Patel sought advice on how other countries deal with asylum applications. Australia, as an example, keep them on overseas islands while claims are processed. It is said that Patel asked the Foreign Office for ideas, and among those raised were ‘implausible ones’ such as the use of Ascension or St Helena.
Patel is expected to address the issue of Channel crossings by migrants in a speech to the Conservative Party Conference on Sunday and has repeatedly vowed to stop those arriving in the country by boat. She has called on the Navy to help tackle the growing number of small boats and appointed a former Royal Marine, Dan O’Mahoney to the role of ‘clandestine Channel threat commander’. She recently said the number of crossings was ‘appalling and unacceptably high’ adding ‘I am working to make this route unviable’.
The UK is dealing with record levels of arrivals across the Channel, and according to PA Media analyses nearly 7,000 people have landed in the UK by small boats this year.
New plans drawn up by the Home Office show that people could be housed in a detention centre criticised for inhumane conditions, and Conservative MP’s in Kent have raised their concerns regarding the housing of migrants in nearby hotels and army barracks.
Ascension Island, which has a population of less than 1,000 is home to a Royal Air Force Station and was used extensively as a staging point by the British military during the Falklands conflict in 1982.
St Helena is one of the most isolated islands in the world, lying 1210 miles off the West Coast of Africa. It is part of the British Overseas Territory of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
A Home Office source said; “The UK has a long and proud history of offering refuge to those who need protection. Tens of thousands of people have rebuilt their lives in the UK and we will continue to provide safe and legal routes in the future. As ministers have said, we are developing plans to reform policies and laws around illegal migration and asylum to ensure we are able to provide protection to those who need it, while preventing abuse of the system and the ‘criminality associated with it’.
The shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “This ludicrous idea is inhumane, completely impractical and wildly expensive, so it seems entirely plausible the Tory government came up with it”.