Tory rebels plot fresh revolt over Priti Patel’s plans to send asylum seekers abroad for processing

Liberal Conservatives hope Ukraine tragedy has shifted mood – ahead of fresh clash over hardline Borders Bill

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Friday 18 March 2022 14:29
Comments
Government should 'rip up' Nationality and Borders Bill, charity chief says

Tory rebels will stage a fresh revolt over Priti Patel’s plans to send asylum seekers abroad for processing, believing the Ukraine tragedy has shifted the public mood.

The Bill that would see refugees sent to far-flung countries to make applications – Rwanda and the island of St Helena have been mooted – returns to the Commons next week.

A group of Conservative MPs plan to stage another fight over the policy, former cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell branding it “a moral, financial and practical failure”.

“We would have to build a British Guantanamo Bay”, he has told fellow Tories, arguing the bill will be £2m per asylum seeker – when even using The Ritz hotel would cost “only” £250,000.

David Davis, a second cabinet veteran, says he hopes the outpouring of public sympathy that has seen 150,000 Britons sign up to host refugees from Ukraine shows the policy is a busted flush.

“I find it hard to imagine that in the current climate they are going to send Ukrainian asylum seekers offshore if they arrive here by boat,” he told The Guardian.

“If you can’t do it to a Ukrainian asylum seeker, how are you going to do it to anyone else?”

The Conservative rebels want to set up a global resettlement scheme to accept 10,000 people a year from war-torn regions, under another amendment being considered.

However, the home secretary is standing firm on her plans, seeing the Australian-style offshore processing centres as a deterrent to stem record Channel crossings by asylum seekers.

Ms Patel will seek to reinstate clause 28 of the Nationality and Borders Bill – to allow refugees to be sent to a third country – after it was removed by the House of Lords.

She signalled her intent by recruiting former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer, the architect of its controversial hardline policy, as an adviser.

But Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has attacked the plan as a violation of refugee rights.

“The proposed offshore processing centres would expose asylum seekers to real risks of forced transfers, extended periods of isolation and deprivation of liberty, violating their human rights and dignity,” she said.

An email sent by Mr Mitchell attacked the suggestion of using Ascension Island, a remote UK territory in the Atlantic Ocean, as a processing centre as “absurd” which risked exposing women and children to abuse.

“If we were to place asylum seekers at the Ritz [hotel] it would only cost £250k a year,” he wrote.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our nationality and borders bill will fix our broken asylum system so we prevent people from making dangerous journeys to the UK and protect the those in need through safe and legal routes.

“The Lords votes are disappointing, but we will not be deterred from delivering what the people of this country voted for.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in