01 October 2020
It has emerged in recent days that the UK government is considering the possibility of housing asylum-seekers in camps outside the country.
UK is looking at processing asylum claims overseas, No 10 suggests (The Guardian, link):
"Downing Street has effectively confirmed it is looking at the idea of an Australian-style asylum system in which all claimants would be processed in camps outside the UK, saying it is examining what other countries do to deter unofficial sea crossings.
Asked about a plan, first reported by the Financial Times, to potentially ship asylum seekers to the South Atlantic for processing, No 10 played down the destination, but did not dispute the idea of overseas processing centres.
Asked about the idea of the UK doing this, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the UK had a “long and proud history” of accepting asylum seekers but needed to act, particularly given migrants making unofficial crossing from France in small boats."
And: Revealed: No 10 explores sending asylum seekers to Moldova, Morocco and Papua New Guinea (The Guardian, link):
"Downing Street has asked officials to consider the option of sending asylum seekers to Moldova, Morocco or Papua New Guinea and is the driving force behind proposals to hold refugees in offshore detention centres, according to documents seen by the Guardian.
The documents suggest officials in the Foreign Office have been pushing back against No 10’s proposals to process asylum applications in detention facilities overseas, which have also included the suggestion the centres could be constructed on the south Atlantic islands of Ascension and St Helena."
Australia's policy of housing asylum-seekers in camps on the islands of Nauru and Manus (part of the territory of Papua New Guinea), under an agreement with those countries' governments, have long been vociferously condemned. In February this year, the International Criminal Court wrote in a letter to an Australian MP (The Guardian, link):
"In terms of the conditions of detention and treatment, although the situation varied over time, the office considers that some of the conduct at the processing centres on Nauru and on Manus Island appears to constitute the underlying act of imprisonment or other severe deprivations of physical liberty under article 7(1)(e) of the statute [crimes against humanity]."
However, the ICC said the situation did not come under its jurisdiction and so it was unable to launch any prosecution in relation to it.
The UK charity Refugee Action said that the discussions taking place within the government "represent a descent to the Home Office’s lowest point yet in its inhumane posturing on the asylum system."
The former New Labour government, in power from 2007 to 2010, proposed similar "offshoring" plans for the EU. The EU's new Pact on Migration and Asylum, meanwhile, foresees the establishment of detention camps at the external borders.
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