UK considers sharing immigration centre in Africa with Denmark

British government 'will not rule out' any option to ease pressure on 'broken asylum system'

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 24: Home Secretary Priti Patel leaves number 10, Downing Street on June 24, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
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The UK is considering working with Denmark to establish an offshore immigration centre in Africa to process the claims of thousands of asylum seekers.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is to introduce new laws next month that will make it possible for asylum claims to be processed outside of the UK.

The number of people arriving in small boats from northern Europe this year  exceeded 5,000 this month and continues to rise despite a series of deals struck with France and millions of pounds spent trying to limit the numbers.

The government has previously mooted offshore reception centres on regular occasions. A consultation document cited Danish successes to “discourage asylum claims via illegal routes” and the Home Office is understood to be closely monitoring the work of other countries.

Denmark sparked anger from rights activists this month after passing a law allowing it to process asylum seekers outside of Europe. Rwanda has emerged as a likely candidate after a visit by the country's immigration minister.

The Scandinavian nation has gained notoriety for its hardline immigration policies including shelved plans for a small isolated island once used for conducting animal disease research to house failed asylum seekers.

The UK was reported on Monday to be in discussions with Denmark about the Rwanda plan but there were understood to be no firm plans in place. Officials said more details about potential plans would follow.

The main goal of the proposed legislation is to deport migrants who enter Britain after passing through other European countries, which are supposed to process their claims, The Times reported. But the UK, now out of the EU, has failed to strike any agreements with the bloc or its closest neighbour France.

“We have been looking at what other countries do to deter illegal migration and this work continues,” a Home Office representative said.

“We will not rule out any option that could help reduce the illegal migration and relieve the pressure on the broken asylum system.”

Previous rumours about the prospect of using Gibraltar as an offshore processing centre were denied by the island’s government.

Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo in March denied an asylum processing centre was proposed for the territory and said nobody had raised the topic with him.

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

Ms Patel’s department also considered creating a processing centre for asylum seekers on an island in the South Atlantic Ocean, 6,400 kilometres from the UK, before the idea was shelved.

"Offshore processing is an act of cruel and brutal hostility towards vulnerable people who through no fault of their own have had to flee war, oppression and terror," Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council charity, told The Times.