Ascension Island
  • The UK government asked officials to explore sending asylum seekers to an island in the middle of the Atlantic.
  • The UK Home Secretary considered creating an asylum centre on Ascension Island, a volcanic outcrop over four thousand miles from the UK, according to a report.
  • The idea was dropped after officials examined its viability.
  • The Labour Party said the idea was "inhumane, completely impractical and wildly expensive."
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The UK government considered plans to send asylum seekers to a volcanic island nearly four-and-a-half-thousand miles from the UK in a bid to reduce the number of migrants arriving at Britain's borders, according to a report.

Government officials told the Financial Times that the Home Secretary Priti Patel had asked them to look at new ways of dealing with illegal migration to the UK, including the Australian method of offshore centres for processing asylum claims.

Patel reportedly asked government officials to look at establishing an asylum centre in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on Ascension Island, a thousand miles (1,600 kilometres) off the coast of Africa.

The island is a volcanic outcrop with a population of fewer than 1,000 people forming part of the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. It was used by the UK as a staging point for British military during the Falklands War and today hosts a Royal Air Force Station.

Patel ditched the idea after the UK Foreign Office provided an assessment of sending asylum seekers to islands thousands of miles from Britain in the middle of the ocean, the Financial Times reports. She also asked officials to explore the possibility of setting up an asylum centre on Saint Helena, the territory's main island, the report says.

The report suggests that Patel had urged officials to look at other countries for inspiration in how to deal with illegal migration to the UK. Australia, whose former prime minister Tony Abbott was recently made a UK trade adviser, has used offshore facilities since the 1980s.

A source familiar with the discussions told The Financial Times: "We have been looking at how other countries have been dealing with this issue... We have been scoping everything. No decisions have been made by ministers."

An official in the Home Office said: "as ministers have said we are developing plans to reform policies and laws around illegal migration and asylum to ensure we are able to provide protection to those who need it, while preventing abuse of the system and the criminality associated with it."

The opposition Labour Party's Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said sending aslyum seekers to Ascension Island was "ludicrous," tweeting: "This ludicrous idea is inhumane, completely impractical and wildly expensive. So it seems entirely plausible this Tory Government came up with it."

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