Not for Rwanda?  Then to climb.  The UK wants to send people by boat to an inhospitable island

Not for Rwanda? Then to climb. The UK wants to send people by boat to an inhospitable island

The British government is considering sheltering boat passengers arriving in the UK on a remote tropical island in the Atlantic Ocean: Ascension. At least, as long as your visa application is pending in the UK. Those who have been granted a visa return. What will happen to those who do not receive a visa is not clear. The idea is a variation on an earlier plan to take people by boat to Rwanda.

Even many British government advisers are not happy. “No chance,” they said internally last week, according to British media. If only because the plan is so expensive. Former minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said the cost was more than €1 million per refugee on a boat.

In Ascension, there is very little except for a military base and BBC relay station. Less than a thousand people live on the volcanic island just below the equator. The island is located 1,600 kilometers west of Angola, roughly in the middle of the ocean between the continents of South America and Africa. Nobody lives there permanently. Ascension Island is known as a breeding ground for sea turtles.

Hot and inhospitable

That means, as Reese-Mogg explained, you have to build everything there: even temporary housing for the construction workers who will eventually build the migrant shelters. There are few natural water sources on the island: the size of Terschelling and infinitely far from civilization. It has no local economy, and no medical facilities. It is hot and inhospitable.

So in 2020, when it first came out, the plan was quickly dropped. British Home Secretary Sarah Daines said last week that “times are changing”. “The crisis on the canal is urgent. We have to look at all possibilities. And that is what we are doing.”

It’s all about the refugees crossing the European mainland by boat into the UK: around 100,000 since 2018, according to Migration Watch UK. Almost half of them arrived last year: 45,755. By the way, that’s still not much when you consider that the total number of people who came to the UK from abroad in 2022 was 1.2m.

Keep the boats out at all costs

Stopping the crossing of the canal is of symbolic importance. For example, accidents involving rickety boats often kill migrants. And for many Britons, Brexit was very much about taking back control of their national borders. The most physical British land border is the coast of the island. So the British government wants to show at any cost that it can turn away the migrants on boats there.

I actually tried this last year with a plan to send boat migrants coming to Rwanda. This was supposed to deter the refugees from making another attempt. For now, however, the judge has put an end to it. The appeal is still pending in the High Court, but the British government appears to be looking for alternatives in case it loses the case.

The advantage of Ascension is that it is a British Overseas Territory. Unlike the Rwanda Plan, the UK would not send boat migrants who have not yet exhausted all legal remedies out of the country, but only transport them domestically.

Political opportunism

However, Konstantin Dziciaru, a professor of human rights at the University of Liverpool, is sure that Plan B will also run into legal problems. He wrote on a website: “It sometimes seems as if the British government is spouting these kinds of ideas without intending to actually implement them.” Conversation. According to him, it appears to be doing this to “stir up anger among political opponents” and disguise its lack of real solutions.

Political opportunism. Patrick O’Flynn, a supporter of Brexit and a supporter of a tougher immigration policy, mainly sees advantages in this context. in the journal viewer He writes: ‘It will be a great boarding house for the government in the run-up to elections: a constant caravan of illegal immigrants is heading to in a lost place While the virtuous advocates of opening borders cry out with such indignation.

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