UK government criticised over ‘immoral and inhumane’ offshore asylum idea

UK government criticised over ‘immoral and inhumane’ offshore asylum idea
UK government criticised over ‘immoral and inhumane’ offshore asylum idea

Home Secretary Priti Patel considered sending asylum seekers to islands 6,500km from UK, Financial Times reports

MEE staff
Wed, 09/30/2020 – 20:13

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel asked officials to look into sending asylum seekers to isolated islands (AFP)

The British government has come under fire from opposition MPs following reports that Home Secretary Priti Patel floated plans of sending asylum seekers to two remote islands about 6,500km (4,000 miles) away.

The suggestion of sending migrants to Ascension Island and Saint Helena, tiny volcanic islands in the South Atlantic, came up during a brainstorming session with civil servants, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

Ascension island and Saint Helena are remote islands about 1,200km apart, with the latter used by the British empire to house prisoners of war, including French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who died in exile there in 1821.

According to the Financial Times, the Foreign Office was consulted on the proposals and provided an assessment on the practicalities of shipping asylum seekers to such remote locations, but the idea was later dropped.

“This ludicrous idea is inhumane, completely impractical and wildly expensive – so it seems entirely plausible this Tory government came up with it,” Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Labour Party’s shadow home secretary tweeted on Wednesday.

Labour MP Zarah Sultana also derided the idea, saying such a plan would be “an utterly heartless way to treat desperate people”.

Far-right British group sparks outrage by harassing asylum seekers in hotels

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Meanwhile, Refugee Action accused the Home Office of “sinking to its lowest level yet”.

Stephen Hale, the charity’s chief executive, said: “It’s deeply troubling that our Home Secretary even considered that this immoral and inhumane plan was a serious solution to a humanitarian crisis.”

A Home Office official said in a statement that the UK had a proud history of offering refuge to those who need protection and would “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 statement read.

In recent months, the UK has faced an increase in boats carrying migrants across the English channel, with Patel having pledged to crack down on the development.

Almost 1,500 people crossed the Channel in small boats during the month of August, the BBC reported.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK had become “a target and a magnet for those who would exploit vulnerable people in this way”.

“I have a great deal of sympathy with those who are desperate as to put their children in dinghies or in children’s paddling pools and try to cross the channel,” he said.

“But I have to say what they’re doing is falling prey to criminal gangs and they are breaking the law.”

The ideas of using the islands to house migrants has drawn parallels to Australia’s controversial offshore migrant processing centres, where many have languished for years without being resettled while officials defend the sites as necessary to stop dangerous sea crossings to Australia.

UK government criticised over ‘immoral and inhumane’ offshore asylum idea

Home Secretary Priti Patel considered sending asylum seekers to islands 6,500km from UK, Financial Times reports

MEE staff
Wed, 09/30/2020 – 20:13

Patel asked officials to look into sending people seeking to reach Britain instead to Ascension Island.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel asked officials to look into sending asylum seekers to isolated islands (AFP)

The British government has come under fire from opposition MPs following reports that Home Secretary Priti Patel floated plans of sending asylum seekers to two remote islands about 6,500km (4,000 miles) away.

The suggestion of sending migrants to Ascension Island and Saint Helena, tiny volcanic islands in the South Atlantic, came up during a brainstorming session with civil servants, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

Ascension island and Saint Helena are remote islands about 1,200km apart, with the latter used by the British empire to house prisoners of war, including French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who died in exile there in 1821.

According to the Financial Times, the Foreign Office was consulted on the proposals and provided an assessment on the practicalities of shipping asylum seekers to such remote locations, but the idea was later dropped.

“This ludicrous idea is inhumane, completely impractical and wildly expensive – so it seems entirely plausible this Tory government came up with it,” Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Labour Party’s shadow home secretary tweeted on Wednesday.

Labour MP Zarah Sultana also derided the idea, saying such a plan would be “an utterly heartless way to treat desperate people”.

Far-right British group sparks outrage by harassing asylum seekers in hotels

Read More »

Meanwhile, Refugee Action accused the Home Office of “sinking to its lowest level yet”.

Stephen Hale, the charity’s chief executive, said: “It’s deeply troubling that our Home Secretary even considered that this immoral and inhumane plan was a serious solution to a humanitarian crisis.”

A Home Office official said in a statement that the UK had a proud history of offering refuge to those who need protection and would “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 statement read.

In recent months, the UK has faced an increase in boats carrying migrants across the English channel, with Patel having pledged to crack down on the development.

Almost 1,500 people crossed the Channel in small boats during the month of August, the BBC reported.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK had become “a target and a magnet for those who would exploit vulnerable people in this way”.

“I have a great deal of sympathy with those who are desperate as to put their children in dinghies or in children’s paddling pools and try to cross the channel,” he said.

“But I have to say what they’re doing is falling prey to criminal gangs and they are breaking the law.”

The ideas of using the islands to house migrants has drawn parallels to Australia’s controversial offshore migrant processing centres, where many have languished for years without being resettled while officials defend the sites as necessary to stop dangerous sea crossings to Australia.


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