Priti Patel is expected to bring in new laws allowing asylum seekers to be sent abroad for processing next week – with faraway Rwanda reportedly under consideration as a possible location.
Britain has never had an offshore immigration processing centre before and it remains unclear where any site would be, despite the plans first being revealed in March.
But The Times reported that the UK could share an ‘African hub’ with Denmark, following previous suggestions that Gibraltar, the Isle of Man or other British islands could be used.
The Home Office denied that it has any plans to work in partnership with Denmark on an offshore hub on Monday, after the report suggested talks had been held between the two countries on a shared ‘African hub’.
Denmark passed a similar law allowing it to process asylum seekers outside Europe earlier this month – likely in Rwanda, which is thousands of miles from the UK and more than 10 hours away by plane.
The UK’s Nationality and Borders Bill comes in the wake of thousands of people making dangerous journeys across the Channel in small boats this year.
But the idea of a overseas processing centre has been blasted by campaigners and rights groups.
Enver Solomon, the CEO of the Refugee Council rights group, said on Monday: ‘For generations we have people given a hearing on UK soil… 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.’
The campaigner Femi Oluwole added on Twitter: ‘Priti Patel says we’re going to start sending scared and desperate refugees to offshore camps where they’ll be outside of the reach of the UK’s human rights protections.
‘No. Just no. This doesn’t happen.’
The Home Office claims the UK’s asylum system is ‘broken’ – 11 years after the Conservatives first came to power.
Earlier this month, the High Court ruled that it had illegally kept asylum seekers at ‘squalid’ barracks in Kent.
Now the department is said to be looking into Denmark and Australia’s immigration policies, with the latter banning asylum seekers travelling by sea and instead initially sending them to neighbouring states like Papua New Guinea.
The Home Office wants the bill to stop dangerous crossings and deport illegal migrants to European countries which they travelled through – but talks with other European nations are not thought to be going well.
Questions will also be raised about exactly where any asylum seekers would be held and that country’s human rights record.
Jun Pang, Liberty policy and campaigns officer, added: ‘These misguided plans are just the latest in a long string of Government measures which would put people at even greater risk of human rights abuses.
‘We know that attacks on rights always start with people who are already marginalised – and the Government’s immigration plan is no different.
‘It undermines access to justice for migrants and seeks to make those in power untouchable.’
The idea of creating an offshore centre on far away Ascension Island was dismissed as ‘blue-sky thinking’ by the government less than a year ago.
But Ms Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson are said to have become more open to the idea of an offshore centre after more than 5,300 migrants reached the UK via the Channel this year alone – more than double the total this time in 2020.
The Times reported that the PM had recently blasted the department over the problem, asking a minister privately: ‘What the f*** is the Home Office doing? When is (Ms Patel) going to sort this out?’
Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said: ‘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.’
The Home Office insists any plan will safeguard people from harm and meet international responsibilities.
A spokesperson told Metro.co.uk: ‘Our asylum system is broken and we cannot sit idly by while people die attempting to cross the Channel. Our New Plan for Immigration will welcome people through safe and legal routes, whilst preventing abuse of the system and the criminality associated with it.
‘People should claim asylum in the first safe country they arrive and we must ensure dangerous journeys are not incentivised.
‘We have been looking at what other countries do to deter illegal migration and this work continues. We will not rule out any option that could help reduce the illegal migration and relieve the pressure on the broken asylum system.’