Dominic Cummings is said to be so “obsessed” with migrant Channel crossings that he is pushing No 10 to consider the construction of offshore processing facilities, a Home Office official has claimed.
The prime minister’s most senior adviser is reported to be worried about the impact of asylum seekers crossing the English Channel on the opinions of red wall voters, according to the Guardian.
“He’s annoyed that it’s always in the press and he thinks it goes down really badly with the red wall voters, which it does,” a Home Office source told the paper.
“And he wants to deal with it. And he thinks these quite extreme ways would be totally fine with red wall voters, which it probably is.”
On Tuesday, documents were leaked detailing government proposals to build offshore migrant centres to deal those who arrive in Britain without permission on the remote Atlantic islands on Ascension and St Helena.
The following day, more files were leaked showing the Home Office considering the construction of wave machines designed to push refugee dinghies back across the Channel.
Downing Street has not denied the reports and said it was considering a range of plans “to reform policies and laws around illegal migration and asylum”.
Documents seen by the Guardian suggest Downing Street has been working on “detail plans”, such as sending asylum seekers to Moldova, Morocco, and Papua New Guinea or having them homed on disused ferries, for weeks.
Humanitarian groups and refugee charities have condemned the proposals.
Amnesty International UK director, Kate Allen, said: “It is a dismal reflection upon Home Office ministers that this idea to effectively exile people seeking asylum to far-flung and isolated places has been given any consideration at all. This would be entirely immoral and inhumane.”
Refugee Action chief executive Stephen Hale called the plans “deeply troubling”.
“The government must stop its unconscionable race to the bottom and work sensibly towards creating a fair and effective asylum system based on humanity, compassion and the rule of law,” he said.
Despite the backlash, some Tory MPs have expressed support for the plans.
Tory MP and Vote Leave supporter Andrew Bridgen said he had been a long-term supporter of offshore processing centres.
He said: “This is a terrific idea and would be popular. I hope we use unused ferries and unused cruise ships. I have been suggesting this for a while. It would mean that the people who come here could not abscond and could be quickly assessed and considered for removal at speed.
“This could dissuade them from putting their lives in the hands of the ruthless people-traffickers.”
Fellow Tory backbencher George Freeman said: “With 50 million asylum seekers in the world, and forecasts of 1 billion global migrants as a result of climate change, the government is right to look at what a responsible, fair and sustainable asylum policy would be.”
Senior Whitehall sources have played down the possibility of the proposals going ahead but said the idea had to be taken seriously because it came with the backing of Boris Johnson’s chief of staff.
“This is still at the ‘Dom’s brain fart’ stage. No one in government has as yet identified a place for an offshore centre; there have been no talks with other governments. But everyone has to kick the tyres, because it came from him,” the source said.
Seven thousand migrants have arrived in the UK in small boats across the Channel so far this year, according to PA Media analysis – more than three times the number of arrivals by this route in the whole of 2019.