UK mulled sending asylum-seekers to remote Atlantic island

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Photo credit A group of people, thought to be migrants, are ferried ashore by Border Force officers, from HMC Seeker, on a Border Force rib at Dover marina in Kent, England after a small boat incident in the English Channel, Tuesday Sept. 22, 2020. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — The British government reportedly proposed processing asylum-seekers on a remote volcanic island in the Atlantic Ocean more than 4,000 miles (6,435 kilometers) from the U.K. — a plan that has been derided as inhumane and a “logistical nightmare” by critics.

The Financial Times reported Wednesday that British Home Secretary Priti Patel had ordered officials to explore plans for building an asylum processing center on Ascension Island, a British overseas territory with a population of under 1,000. The report said Patel later appeared to have dropped the plan.

Thousands of people have crossed the English Channel this year by small boats to seek asylum in the U.K. Patel has pledged to stop the record number of arrivals and to make the route “unviable," and has appointed a former Royal Marine to the new role of “clandestine Channel threat commander."

The Home Office did not deny that the idea of transferring asylum seekers to remote islands had been considered.

“As ministers have said, we are developing plans to reform policies and laws around illegal migration and asylum to ensure we are able to provide protection to those who need it, while preventing abuse of the system and the criminality associated with it,” it said in a statement.

Alan Nicholls, a member of the Ascension Island Council, told the BBC on Wednesday the proposal was unfeasible.

“Looking at cost and logistics, we are some 4,000-plus miles away from the UK, I would have thought it would be extremely expensive and a bit of a logistical nightmare to get asylum seekers here to Ascension,” he said.

The opposition Labour party said the proposal by the ruling Conservative government was “inhumane, completely impractical and wildly expensive.”