Britain considers sending asylum seekers to Gibraltar under immigration revamp

Home Secretary Priti Patel aims to discourage English Channel crossings

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into port by Border Force officers following a small boat incident in the Channel, at Dover southern England, Monday March 8, 2021. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)

Asylum seekers in the UK could be sent offshore for processing under plans to discourage people from making the perilous journey across the English Channel.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is expected to publish details of plans to overhaul Britain’s immigration system, including a consultation on changing the law so that migrants seeking asylum can be sent to processing centres in third countries.

The British overseas territory of Gibraltar and the Isle of Man, a crown dependency in the Irish Sea, are among the locations being considered, The Times reported.

Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo denied that an asylum processing centre had been proposed in the territory.

He said the "geographic limitations" of Gibraltar and the territory's arrangements with Europe's Schengen travel area made the proposal impractical.

"I can confirm that this issue has not been raised with me at any level," he said.

"I would have made clear this is not an area on which we believe we can assist the UK."

Other islands off the British coast, possibly in Scotland, were reportedly under consideration.

Officials are negotiating with several countries outside the EU about taking migrants in return for payment, similar to a scheme operated by Australia, the Daily Mail reported.

Those who arrive via a safe country, such as France, could have their British asylum claim dismissed and be repatriated or sent back to the safe country from which they arrived.

The plan is designed to deter people from making the journey from France to Britain via the English Channel, A record 8,420 migrants made the crossing last year, mostly in small boats.

It is understood the new legislation could include life sentences for people smugglers and the establishment of migrant reception centres on government land, Many migrants are currently being housed in hotels.

It emerged last year that the British government considered sending asylum seekers to Ascension Island, a remote UK territory in the Pacific Ocean, as well as third countries such as Moldova, Morocco and Papua New Guinea.

The government also considered converting disused ferries into processing centres.

The ideas were dismissed as unfeasible, while asylum seeker groups labelled the proposals inhumane.