How would an offshore asylum seeker centre off Scotland work?

The British Government is said to be looking at using offshore asylum seeker processing centres, but how would this work?

Thursday, 1st October 2020, 5:34 pm
Ascension Island, which the UK Government is considering using to house an asylum seeker processing centre. Picture: Getty Images
Ascension Island, which the UK Government is considering using to house an asylum seeker processing centre. Picture: Getty Images

It is said to have carried out an assessment for using Ascension Island, a remote UK territory in the Atlantic Ocean, to process migrants thousands of miles away from the UK.

The scheme is based on Operation Sovereign Borders Australia, where asylum seekers are held on offshore islands of Nauru and Manus Island, as well as Christmas Island.

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Immigrants are housed in the off-shore centres where they are then processed to see if they have the right to remain.

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Nicola Sturgeon responds to reports that UK Government plans to use Scottish island for refugee processing

The Australian Government insists it stops those arriving by boats having an unfair advantage to other migrants, secures the border, and prevents overcrowding.

As well as islands further afield, it also said to be looking at processing migrants on an island off the coast of Scotland.

The UK is desperate to find a way to curb the number of migrants making the journey to Britain, and is now considering copying the offshore processing and detention centres used by Australia to hold asylum seekers since the 1980s.

This is controversial for several reasons, not least because they don’t seem to be that reliable.

Facilities have seen a number of riots and escapes, and on a practical level are, in the case of Ascension Island, more than 4,000 miles away from Britain.

They’ve also faced a series of accusations of human rights abuses from groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations.

The UN’s refugee agency representative to the UK, Rossella Pagliuchi-Lo, claimed the proposal would breach the UK's obligations to asylum seekers.She said the Australian approach had "brought about huge suffering for people, who are guilty of no more than seeking asylum, and it has also cost huge amounts of money".

In 2015 several staff at the Naura centre wrote an open letter claiming allegations of sexual abuse against women and children, while in 2018 children as young as eight were shown to be displaying suicidal behaviour.

Manus has seen several suicides, as well as threats of legal action for holding asylum seekers illegally.

Alan Nicholls, a member of the Ascension Island council, said the move would be a "logistical nightmare" that would annoy locals.

Tory MPs welcomed the leaked proposals, with Laura Trott insisting it was "absolutely right" to consider the plans to ease the burden on UK centres.

However, Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael Plans claimed the plans were Theresa May’s “hostile environment on steroids”, and simply wouldn’t work.He told The Scotsman: “There are a myriad of practical concerns that are clearly being ignored by officials.

“A refugee facility requires a level of local social infrastructure that island communities, let alone rusting ferries, simply don’t have, from legal services to counselling to voluntary support.

“These are absolutely vital services for people who are often fleeing war, persecution or other personal hardship.”

The SNP’s Joanna Cherry MP added: “This is a Tory government driven by a hostile and toxic agenda and its plans to treat vulnerable asylum seekers as cattle rather than human beings marks yet another stain on its record.”

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