Asylum seekers could be sent to processing centres abroad under the home secretary’s plans to overhaul the immigration system, according to reports.
The British overseas territory of Gibraltar is a location under consideration by officials, according to The Times, as well as the Isle of Man and other islands off the British coast.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has vowed to stop migrants making the perilous journey across the English Channel and is expected to publish details of plans to overhaul the UK’s asylum and immigration system.
It is understood a white paper on proposals will be published in the “coming weeks”.
The Times said plans due to be set out will include a consultation on changing the law so that migrants seeking asylum can be sent to processing centres in third countries.
Asked about the report, Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News: “This isn’t an announcement by the home secretary, this is speculation on work that she is doing and we’ll be saying more on in the weeks ahead.
“I can’t give you all the answers this morning but it is extremely important we have a robust immigration system and those people coming to the country to seek asylum can do so in safety.
“We don’t want anyone’s lives to be put at risk, we don’t want people to be at the hands of people traffickers.
“We’ve seen people, including young children dying making perilous crossings across the Channel.
“That isn’t something we want to see and so if there are safer and better ways of doing that, then we should be exploring them and that’s exactly what the home secretary is doing.”
It follows a series of leaks last year suggesting the UK government was considering a number of offshore policies akin to those used in Australia.
These included sending asylum seekers to Ascension Island, more than 4,000 miles from the UK, to be processed, and turning disused ferries out at sea into processing centres.
The ideas were dismissed by critics at the time as unfeasible, while Labour condemned the suggestion of an asylum processing centre on Ascension Island as “inhumane, completely impractical and wildly expensive”.
The government believes sending migrants to third countries for processing would be compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), according to reports.
The Times said the new legislation will include life sentences for people smugglers and the establishment of migrant reception centres on government land, with many currently being housed in hotels.
A Home Office source said: “Whilst people are dying making perilous journeys we would be irresponsible if we didn’t consider every avenue.”