UK Wants to Incarcerate Asylum Seekers “Offshore” on Abandoned Oil Rigs

Eighteen months ago, reports started to surface that Boris Johnson’s Conservative government in the U.K. was planning to detain would-be asylum seekers in places as far away as the South Atlantic. Some sites, such Ascension Island and others, are 4,000 milesFrom Britain.

Johnson’s plan was actually a spinoff of a never-implemented idea put forward by the Labour government back in 2003 to “offshore” the country’s asylum process to “regional protection zones” in the vicinity of the conflicts and collapsing economies that were sending hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers to the U.K. and other European countries. After receiving tremendous criticism from social justice and immigrant right organizers, Tony Blair, then Prime Minister, backed away from the idea. They claimed that it would place unfair financial burdens on countries that are located on the periphery war zones.

Since those initial reports — with asylum seekers finding ever-more creative ways to cross over to England from the continent, either via boats or, in some instances, being smuggled through the Channel Tunnel — Home Secretary Priti Patel has increasingly looked to penalize asylum seekers, to render their actions criminal and to deny them the right to a fair hearing in the U.K. The British government is replicating the U.S. government’s actions during Trump’s administration against asylum seekers who attempted to cross the U.S. southern border. Migrant Protection Protocols.

Patel revealed plans in legislation titled the “The” this summer. Nationality and Borders BillTo criminalize asylum seekers entering the country with no paperwork and to make deportation easier. Asylum seekers could be housed in offshore facilities, such as abandoned oil rigs or on Ascension Island off southern Africa’s coast, while their cases are processed through the courts. This sort of offshore detention — a practice long utilized in Australia, and currently being proposed in Denmark — is one that immigrants’ rights groups view with deep suspicion. If it is implemented, it will also give the British home Secretary unprecedented powers to revoke certain U.K. citizenships of citizens deemed politically unfavorable. This move was inspired by a number of high-profile U.K. citizen cases that involved them in ISIS.

So desperate is Johnson’s government to deliver on its electoral promise to anti-immigrant voters of curtailing immigration that it has reportedly turned to a range of countries, from Norway to Rwanda to Albania to host its detention facilities. All, apparently, have turned down the U.K.’s overtures, leaving the remote Ascension Island, with its once-a-week flight to South Africa, as choice number one. If this tough on asylum proposal becomes law it could end up costing the U.K. a fortune: A similar offshoring policy in Australia ultimately cost the Australians roughly 2 million pounds per person per year held at these remote detention sites, and helped shred the country’s human rights record in the process. This type of off-shoring policy is not only illegal but also expensive as a deterrent system.

Since the first proposal of the bill, opposition parties and rebels within Conservative ranks have waged a rearguard battle to stop it from being enacted.

Now, with war raging again on the European continent and displacing million of people, and with tens and thousands of British families having signed up to a government program for Ukrainian refugees in the homes of their families, one might imagine that Prime Minster Johnson and Home Secretary Patel would use this moment as cover to back down from the more inflammatory of anti-immigrant proposals.

They have actually doubled down on this. Earlier this month, the government repeatedly made it clear that it was sticking by this bill, and sent the legislation over to parliament’s upper chamber, the House of Lords, to be debated, amended and voted upon. But members of the House of Lords weren’t happy about the legislation, and in a series of hearings successfully defeated or amended many of its more contentious, more anti-democratic, provisions.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the bill is dead. The House of Lords is more of an advisory chamber than an institution that has veto power over legislation. And, at this point, it’s looking as if Johnson’s government intends to try to steamroll the legislation through Parliament later this month, when members of Parliament once more debate the merits of the proposals.

Johnson is a wounded leader and his hold over the Conservative Party isn’t nearly as strong as it was last year, despite months of political scandals. In recent days, more than two dozen of his members of Parliament have indicated their discomfort with key parts of the legislation,This includes the part refusing to grant temporary work permits to asylum seekers while they await their cases to hear.

The dynamic around refugees and asylees is rapidly changing due to the conflict in Ukraine. An increasing number of European countries have held back poor (mainly nonwhite) migrants seeking asylum for years. This has been done because electorates are increasingly wary of large scale migration. But Ukrainians, forced to flee suddenly before a staggeringly violent Russian onslaught, aren’t seeking asylum, a process that can take years of legal hearings to complete; rather they are heading west as refugees — into refugee camps in countries bordering Ukraine, and then westward into other countries in Europe. And, unlike the victims of other conflicts, they are not seeking asylum. aid agencies in Europe are watching, somewhat amazed, as governments welcome these displaced Ukrainians with open arms. This treatment is far cry from how European countries’ response to the civil war in Syria — a year after a mass migration into Europe in 2015, one country after another began locking its borders down against the refugees — and the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

However, Ukrainians are being issued work permits and free public transit passes despite the fact these European governments have been consistently turning away refugees from Syria and other conflict zones in recent years, following a populist backlash against 2015’s liberal entry policies.

After you have completed the following: slow start denounced by opposition politicians as “shameful,” Britain has begun easing its rules-of-entry to allow for large numbers of Ukrainiansto temporarily resettle in the U.K. 200,000 Ukrainians could end up living in the country over the coming months and years — a number roughly equal to the number of EU nationals who left the U.K. in 2020 as Brexit’s provisions began to kick inIt is a good idea, and it could help to fill the labour shortage in key economic sectors that Britain has experienced repeatedly since Brexit.

Some relief workers and experts argue that this is a moment for Europe to fundamentally rethink its obligationsTo those fleeing persecution or violence, finally bringing the continent in line with the spirit and intent of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

However, this seems unlikely, at least for the short-term. The political tradeoff in Britain is perhaps the most obvious. The home secretary, with Prime Minister Johnson’s backing, is continuing to push the noxious Nationality and Borders Bill in the same month that the government has been forced, by public opinion as much as by internal party dissent, to roll out a much larger welcome mat for Ukrainians than it had initially intended.

The U.K. is rightly responding with generosity to the victims of Russia’s violence in Ukraine. If the Conservative parliamentary rebels don’t gain more support in the coming weeks, it may soon be on a worse path than before when it comes to its responses to other displaced and traumatized people fleeing non European conflicts, non-European financial collapse, and non-European areas of despair.