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Tue, 27 October 2020

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Here Are All The Outlandish Ideas The Government Is Reported To Be Considering To Tackle Migrant Channel Crossings

Here Are All The Outlandish Ideas The Government Is Reported To Be Considering To Tackle Migrant Channel Crossings

Ministers are said to be considering a range of measures to tackle increased Channel crossings (Credit: PA)

3 min read

As the entire country faces a battle to contain spiking coronavirus cases, Home Secretary Priti Patel appears to be embroiled in a struggle with her own department.

The Home Office has been under fire after leaked documents shown to the Financial Times revealed the cabinet minister had asked officials to explore the possiblilty of building an immigration centre in the middle of the Atlantic. 

Ms Patel is said to have suggested Ascension Island, a British territory 4,000 miles away from the mainland, as a potential spot to build a processing facility.

The Foreign Office is believed to have carried out an assessment before the plans were eventually abandoned. 

The stunning leak sparked a flurry of revelations over other methods apparently being considered by the government to tackle increased Channel crossings, including:

- Deploying disused ferries, moored off the UK coast, to house asylum seekers waiting for their cases to be dealt with.  According to the Times, Downing Street is exploring the possibility.

"A disused 40-year-old ferry can be bought from Italy for £6 million. It could house 1,400 people in 141 cabins. A disused cruise ship, at present moored in Barbados, would cost £116 million and could accommodate 2,417 people in 1,000 cabins," the paper reported.

- The same story suggests ministers also considered using disused oil platforms in the North Sea - which are so far offshore they have to be reached by helicopter - for the same purpose. 

"It would be so dangerous. They are designed to be as small as possible and house maybe 100 people, working shifts back to back so they share cabins," said an industry insider.

- Ministers are said to be considering building new processing centres slightly closer to home than the home secretary might want - on the Isle of Wight, Shetland or the Isle of Man.

According to the Mail, those seeking asylum in Britain could also be sent to facilities in Morocco, Moldova or Papua New Guinea as part of a parallel project.

"Official documents marked 'sensitive' and produced earlier this month, summarise advice from officials at the Foreign Office, which was asked by Downing Street to 'offer advice on possible options for negotiating an offshore asylum processing facility similar to the Australian model in Papua New Guinea and Nauru'," the paper reports.

- Another leak to the FT floated the idea of deploying boats with wave-generating pumps to force smaller vessels back into French waters.  The plan was reportedly scrapped due to the risk of capsizing.

Government sources stress that no final decisions have been made, with a Home Office insider telling the BBC: "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."

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the plans were "unconscionable".

"Even considering this is appalling," he tweeted, later adding: "This is a vile example of how degraded an environment the Tories have created.

"The Windrush Review was damning about the inhumane culture they have created at the Home Office. They’ve learned nothing."

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