UK Could Follow Australia’s Lead and Hold Asylum Seekers Overseas for Processing: Report

Migrants in a dinghy sail in the Channel toward the south coast of England on September 1, 2020 after crossing from France. - Migrant crossings of the Channel between France and England have hit record numbers, with thousands having arrived in small boats since the beginning of the year. The …
GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom could adopt an Australia-style asylum system of holding migrants overseas while processing their claims in an effort to deter illegal migration.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, the government minister in charge of borders, is set to reveal plans next week for the reforming of Britain’s immigration system, and it will include consultation plans on changing the law, making it possible to send asylum seekers to third countries while their claims are processed.

According to The Times, officials are considering processing centres on islands off the coast of Scotland, the crown dependency of the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, and British overseas territory Gibraltar, which shares a land border with Spain. Officials are also considering deals with other countries, such as Denmark, which takes a hard line on hosting refugees.

This would not be the first time a major world power considered hosting migrants off-shore while processing asylum claims.

Like the UK, Australia was beset with annual waves of illegals travelling by boat. In response, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott put into action Operation Sovereign Borders in 2013, which combines several efforts to deter illegal migration, namely turning back the boats and processing them offshore on Naru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island in the South Pacific Ocean.

The Australian government also promotes a strong zero-tolerance to illegal migration message, which is targetted at would-be migrants and smugglers, including messages such as emblazoned on the OSB’s website: “Australia’s borders are closed to illegal migration.”

The military-led operation to push back the migrants was overwhelmingly successful in reducing illegal landings, bringing down the yearly average of 20,000, to 150 the year it was implemented, to the country celebrating 900 days of zero illegal boat migrants landing in Australia by February 2017.

The system has not changed under successive leaderships, with Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton telling would-be migrants after the election of Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 2019: “Australia’s position on border protection has not changed following the Australian election… Make no mistake: you will not settle in Australia if you attempt to come illegally by boat. You will be returned. You have zero chance of success.”

If the reported British Home Office proposals are discussed and adopted, it will form part of Patel’s sweeping new immigration plans post-Brexit, which already include automatically rejecting the asylum claims of illegals who travelled to the UK from the safety of Europe.

The UK is also reportedly set to construct migrant centres as holding facilities for applicants and failed asylum seekers awaiting deportation after officials realised that the prospect of being put up in four-star hotels at taxpayers’ expense offered too much of a draw for migrants to come to Britain.

Another pull is the perception that once illegals make it to the UK, even if their claim is rejected, they will never be deported — particularly back to the EU if the last safe country they were in was in Europe. Statistics have supported that claim: in the last few years, the reported proportion of illegal migrants sent back to the last safe country of residence in the EU, oftentimes France, has been in the low figures.

Even after the UK fully left all of Brussels’ institutions, as of March 4th reportings, not a single illegal has been returned to the EU. Even in the last year that the UK was still under EU migrant transfer protocols, just 105 out of 8,502 attempts to return migrants to the bloc was successful.

A record 8,420 illegal aliens crossed the English Channel last year, and more than 800 arrived since January 1st, 2021 — three times as many as which arrived in the same period of 2020.

The UK government was reportedly considering last summer, when illegal alien arrivals by boat crested 4,000, the push-back system, as well, with a government source telling media at the time that Australia’s policy was “successful”. However, reports indicated that refusal on France’s part to accept the migrants that left its shore would have made the operation unworkable.

Months before, former Australian Prime Minister Abbott criticised the French, saying they had “no right to wave-on their problems to Britain just because they are unwilling or unable to control their own borders”.

“Plainly, this will require a degree of determination and planning on Britain’s’s part. The French may not like to hear ‘they shall not pass’ from Britons… Still, in the long run, this is for France’s’s good too; as the only way to clear the camps in Calais is to ensure that none of their occupants can ever get across the Channel and stay,” Mr Abbott had said in May 2020.

Abbott had also warned British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the UK faced its own migrant crisis unless it stopped the boats and turned them back, writing: “As long as ‘to arrive is to remain’, people smugglers will have a business model and those countries that lack the will to say ‘no’ are at risk of peaceful invasion. This is the prospect that faces Britain, if swift action is not taken to stop people coming illegally by boat.”

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