This article was updated on 5th April 2022 to reflect a Government decision.
EXCLUSIVE – The U.K. Government has asked Civil Servants in Whitehall to draw up plans to house people seeking asylum in the UK on The Falkland Islands and/or Ascension Island. The move seen as controversial is said to have left Whitehall officials perplexed and angry. The Falkland Islands Government are opposed to the idea, but as it’s planned to be carried out by the British Armed Forces, the overseas territory would have little power to stop it. The second option being mooted is for Asylum seekers to be sent to Rwanda in Africa as part of a so-called Third-Country Asylum Partnership (TCAP).
There had previously been reports that Home Secretary Priti Patel had enquired about housing migrants at offshore hubs as Australia does, but it was thought the idea had been shelved. I can now reveal that there are several plans in advanced states as a result of the massive media attention on asylum seekers crossing the English Channel.
A senior Whitehall Official has told me that Boris Johnson has asked officials to expedite plans for asylum seekers to be flown by RAF transport planes to “hubs” in the South Atlantic. While the Falkland Islands are said to be the preferred option, enquiries are also being made to house migrants on Ascension Island, an overseas territory used by the United States as a military base.
The Falklands Government are said to be deeply opposed to the idea, but as it would primarily been operated by the UK Military, they have little option. Intensive talks are still ongoing into the specifics, with the South Atlantic territory wanting assurances they asylum seekers won’t be permanently settled there, and that they will receive substantial financial benefits if the plan goes ahead.
Rwandan Option Still Open
The British government had recently approached Albania with a proposal to “host” asylum seekers whilst their applications were being processed. The Albanians flat out rejected the idea fearing they would be left to deal with thousands of people whose applications had been rejected. However, talks are now ongoing with Rwanda officials to implement a near identical plan. The UK government as well as offering financial incentives, are said to be considering several other requests from the African country.
Downing Street’s idea behind housing asylum seekers offshore comes down to their belief that it will immediately deter those in Northern France from making perilous channel crossings, as well as being popular with Tory backbenchers calling for tougher actions on people seeking asylum in the U.K. The recent deaths of over 30 migrants in the English Channel, and the negative attention it created is said to have angered the Home Secretary Priti Patel. There is now a concerted effort underway to get new legislation through Parliament as quickly as possible.
When the idea to house asylum seekers overseas was previously mooted, human rights groups had fiercely condemned the plans. Many cited Australia’s offshore detention centers having desperate living conditions and high rates of suicide among detainees. Critics say that some of the country’s practices contravene the UN Refugee Convention. It is therefore unsure what position the legal advisors in Westminster will take if the plans are moved forward.
The Home Office, MoD and Falkland Islands Government have been contacted for comment.
UPDATE: 9:15pm, Thursday 2nd December. The Falkland Islands Government have responded denying any contact has been made saying:
“The Falkland Islands Government has not received any approach concerning asylum seekers or offshore processing from the UK Government, so it’s not a point that our officials are considering or speculating about.”
Update: 5th April 2022, It is now being reported Boris Johnson is set to make a statement on an agreement struck to process asylum seekers in Rwanda.
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