PRITI PATEL is considering shipping asylum seekers to Rwanda while their claims to live in the UK are processed.
It has been reported that the UK is in talks with Denmark for a shared facility in Africa, after the Danes changed the law to allow processing of asylum seekers outside the EU.
The plans have been described as inhumane by opposition politicians and charities, and are part of the Home Office’s strategy of wholesale reform of the system.
Earlier this year Ms Patel said she wanted to create a “firm but fair” system and deter criminals from exploiting the vulnerable by trafficking them to the UK.
New rules have been introduced by the Home Office to make it harder for people to claim asylum with factors such as how they came to the UK and whether they passed through other ‘safe’ countries taken into consideration as part of their applications.
In May, Denmark agreed with the Rwandan Government to ‘enhance cooperation’ on migration and asylum, and at the start of this month passed a law that would allow the country to process asylum seekers outside the EU.
It sparked a raft of criticism, with campaigners concerned that using poorer countries to accommodate asylum seekers would result in reduced safety and welfare standards for asylum seekers and compromise their human rights.
Similar plans were considered in 2016-2018 when a large number of people fled to Europe to escape conflict in Syria, but were scrapped.
Amnesty International said of the Danish plans in May: “Any attempt to transfer asylum-seekers arriving in Denmark to Rwanda for their asylum claims to be processed would be not only unconscionable, but potentially unlawful”.
It has been reported today that Priti Patel is in talks with the Danish government to set up a joint processing centre for the two countries in Rwanda.
A government source is reported to have said that representatives of both countries discussed how the Danish government managed the laws domestically, their negotiations with third countries and the “potential” to share a processing centre abroad.
Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, the party’s Home Affairs spokesman, said the plans were “dystopian” and must be stopped.
He said: “Shipping asylum seekers off to so-called ‘processing centres’ in Rwanda would be an appalling and inhumane way to treat some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
“The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary and support to those in need, but now Priti Patel and the Conservatives are turning their backs on refugees who are seeking safety.
“Treating seekers of sanctuary as criminals is wrong and will only strengthen the position of people smugglers and human traffickers who prey on desperate people trying to cross the Channel.
“The best way to tackle these criminal gangs and stop dangerous boat crossings is to provide safe and legal routes for refugees to come to the UK, something the Home Secretary is completely failing to do.
“That should be her focus, not these dystopian proposals.”
The SNP’s Stuart McDonald said the measures being suggested were “horrifying” and could breach UN law.
He also said Scots wanted “no part” in the plans “, which have been widely condemned – including by the UN – and would breach the UK’s obligations under Human Rights laws and the 1951 Refugee Convention.”
He said: “It is horrifying that the Home Secretary is ploughing ahead with these plans…Scotland wants no part in these inhumane policies….
“The Home Office already has an abysmal track record – from depriving asylum seekers of the right to work and pitiful levels of asylum support to the disgraceful treatment of those in detention.
“But plans to ship some of the most vulnerable people in the world miles away to remote island detention centres is beyond reprehensible and doesn’t make sense.”
He said it would also be a “gross misuse of public money”, adding: “The UK government is committed under international law to provide a safe haven for those fleeing persecution – these plans must be axed immediately.”
Labour’s Nick Thomas Symonds added: “This is yet more evidence of the lack of compassion and competence at the Home Office under Conservative Ministers.
“These plans are unconscionable – and an attempt to create a smokescreen to distract from the fact Ministers have failed to reopen safe and legal routes, failed to reach an effective agreement with France to deal with criminal gangs, and failed to introduce effective border measures to stop the Delta Variant getting a foothold in this country.”