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Govt proposes off-shore detention centres for refugees

This summer, approximately 7,000 refugees made the dangerous journey across the channel. Documents obtained by The Guardian and Financial Times have revealed some rather disturbing suggestions for how No. 10 plans to deal with these new arrivals, including housing them in off-shore detention centres. By Michael Delaney.

Under pressure for a proposal

On Sunday, Home Sec. Priti Patel is expected to lay out the Home Office’s plans for housing and processing refugee and asylum seekers arriving in the UK.

Priti Patel is under pressure to find new solutions for housing migrants, including off-shore detention centres.

A total of 393 migrants arrived in England by small boats on Tuesday, the Home Office confirmed. And there is growing pressure from the right-wing of politics for something to be done to stem the flow of migrants crossing the channel.

Inhumane conditions

The first story to break last week revealed details of Foreign Sec. Priti Patel’s plans to use Morton Hall, in Lincolnshire, to house asylum seekers.

Minnie Rahman, the public affairs manager at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said:

“It is completely inappropriate that the Home Office is intending to use detention centres – which are essentially prisons – to house people seeking asylum. This is nothing more than shameless rebranding of the detention estate. These places have longstanding and well-documented records of abuse and are simply not fit to accommodate those in need of protection.”

Off-shore detention centres

More disturbingly, the Guardian has revealed plans by No. 10 showing that officials have been asked to consider the option of sending asylum seekers to detention centres in Moldova, Morocco or Papua New Guinea.

The proposals include details of logistics and costs for building the centres and relocating migrants, which is “based on migrants being intercepted outside Australian waters” allowing Australia to claim no immigration obligations to individuals.

Australia’s approach to dealing with asylum seekers has brought international criticism, with mental health issues and self harm particularly prevalent in their detention centres. In 2017, the Australian govt was ordered to pay $70m in compensation to almost 2,000 detainees.

Going further

The UK proposals are similar to the Australian method of dealing with refugees. The documents suggest the UK’s proposals would, however, go further than Australia’s hardline system and would involve relocating asylum seekers who “have arrived in the UK and are firmly within the jurisdiction of the UK for the purposes of the ECHR and Human Rights Act 1998”.

A Whitehall source has told the Guardian that these plans are part of the govt’s strategy to create a ‘hostile environment’ that would help to deter asylum seekers from wanting to make the journey to the UK.

The Foreign Office has pushed back on these proposals due to the financial, logistical and political challenges of making them work. However, these revelations demonstrate the intentions of the govt to create a scenario where migrants are deterred from seeking asylum in the UK.