Politics Explained

Can the government really process asylum seekers in a third country?

Sean O’Grady examines whether Home Office proposal to house migrants in a separate nation is legally sound

Thursday 18 November 2021 21:30
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<p>The government is edging closer to a policy of housing migrants in another country</p>

The government is edging closer to a policy of housing migrants in another country

For some months now, reports, leaks and rumours have emerged from the Home Office that ministers are toying with the idea of sending asylum seekers to “third countries” for processing. Until now, such reports, leaks and rumours were downplayed, presumably because they were not yet policy, the details hadn’t been thought through, and because some may have been alarmed at civil servants trying to prevent these unusual schemes from happening.

Now, though, they seem to be edging closer to firm policy. The Home Office briefed overnight about such a plan, involving countries such as Albania and Rwanda, and the justice secretary has confirmed that it is now much more than official spitballing: “We will work with all our partners – and it’s not just one country, we’ve looked at the Australian experience, we’ve been talking with the Danes about this and we want to make sure the processing, if it’s possible – and that will depend on the goodwill and co-operation of partners – can be done elsewhere.” He drew back from naming the prospective new bases, but did not deny that Albania and Rwanda were being considered.

Although expensive, impractical and ineffective, the policy does have some logic behind it, if only from the point of view on ministers frustrated at their failure to stem the flow of migrants across the English Channel, which is running at around 1,000 per day on the official statistics, with a further, unknown number arriving even less formally, with no Border Force or RNLI escort.

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