Asylum processing centres could be built on the Isle of Wight, the Shetlands or the Isle of Man, it emerged yesterday.
The new ‘offshoring’ proposal – which might also see asylum hostels built on other remote Scottish islands – is part of Priti Patel’s over-arching programme to crackdown on the Channel migrant crisis.
Under a parallel project also being considered by the Government, asylum seekers who arrive in Britain could be flown out to processing centres in Morocco, Moldova or Papua New Guinea.
Downing Street is the driving force behind proposals to hold refugees in offshore detention centres and has asked officials to consider the option of sending asylum seekers abroad.
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’.
Home Office officials have also been ordered to draw up feasibility studies for the hostel-type centres on islands within the British Isles. It emerged yesterday that officials had previously looked at locating a centre on Ascension Island or St Helena, thousands of miles away in the South Atlantic.
However, using such distant British overseas territories was ruled impractical over costs and logistical problems. Now, proposals for asylum centres on islands closer to home will be drawn up.
Migrants would be processed on disused ferries moored off the coast under the plans being considered.
Another option being considered is buying retired ferries and converting them into asylum-processing centres.
Marina with boats on the Solent at East Cowes, Isle of Wight. Migrants who land in Britain could be flown to hostels on the island
Migrants are currently being housed in Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, which has been repurposed for them
New proposals are part of Priti Patel ‘s over-arching programme to crackdown on the Channel migrant crisis
Boris Johnson is reportedly keen to deter migrants from making dangerous crossings from France with the proposals.
Meanwhile, The Times has been told that the Home Office held discussions about moving migrants to decommissioned oil platforms in the North Sea for
Ministers decided that it was a ‘no go’ but the plan to move migrants to ships is thought more realistic and is being given serious consideration.
Miss Patel is understood to believe the processing centres would deter migrants who hope to settle in UK towns and cities. ‘Offshoring is still at the scoping stage and policy is yet to be decided,’ said a Government source.
‘But we are looking at all options to stop the small boats in the Channel, and offshoring is part of that. In terms of locations you could look at the Shetlands, the Isle of Wight, the Isle of Man, and those sorts of areas.
‘There are also lots of little islands up by Scotland.’
The source added: ‘This is all fairly down the track and it’s not going to be an overnight thing. It will also require changes to legislation. And if we were going to build anything at any of these places we would have to ensure there are appropriate services and provisions for asylum seekers who are sent there.’
The source said any accommodation constructed on an island would not take the form of secure detention centres. ‘We do not detain asylum seekers, they are free to come and go,’ he said.
It comes after it was revealed last month that a former Second World War barracks in Folkestone, Kent was now being used by the Government to house up to 400 asylum seekers.
Opening the camp was intended to put out a discouraging message to anyone thinking of crossing the Channel illegally. The sparse conditions are very different from the comfortable accommodation complete with a £40 a week spending allowance some migrants have been given on arrival in Britain.
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, by Border Force following a small boat incident in the Channel yesterday
Under a parallel project also being considered by the Government, asylum seekers who arrive in Britain could be flown out to processing centres in Morocco, Moldova or Papua New Guinea
Gibraltar, another British overseas territory, had been ruled out as a location because it is too small, it is understood.
The source added: ‘We are looking at what other countries do in terms of offshoring asylum applications and what would be appropriate for us. Government departments including the Foreign Office were asked to look at options.
‘Ascension Island was one of the places they came up with. But the Home Secretary does not think that location is feasible.
‘Offshoring is something that was previously proposed by Tony Blair’s government.’ It is unclear how a Home Office asylum facility could be set up on the Isle of Man, which is self-governing.
Separately, leaked documents marked ‘sensitive’ revealed that Downing Street asked the Foreign Office to consider processing centres in Morocco, Moldova and Papua New Guinea at the direct suggestion of the Prime Minister.
The three countries were specifically ‘floated’ by No 10, The Guardian reported. However, the Foreign Office identified a number of diplomatic and practical problems with the plan.