Chris Philp has refused to rule out the Home Office using a “giant wave machine” to deter migrant crossings in the English Channel.
Philp told the Commons home affairs committee that ministers had not counted out sending asylum seekers to Ascension Island or to disused oil platforms as their claims were processed.
Philp came under pressure to deny reports that the Home Office was considering sending illegal migrants to remote processing centres in the South Atlantic.
Responding to Labour’s Yvette Cooper, who chairs the committee, Philp said: “The Home Office has considered a wide range of options and I don’t want to give any definitive commentary on what we have and haven’t thought about, or rule in or out what steps we will be taking in the future,”
This provoked a furious reply from Cooper. “Seriously,” she said. “You’re not seriously not going to rule out sending asylum seekers to the Ascension Island to be processed?”
“Well, we have no current plans to do that,” replied Philp.
Cooper pressed: “Will you rule out putting people on disused oil platforms?”
Philp replied that he would not “engage” on a list of hypothetical questions, prompting a brief shouting match which saw Cooper say: “These things have been reported in the paper. You should at least be able to rule these things out and to say these are not your policies and that you’re not going to send people to a disused oil platform.”
The Labour MP then asked Philp to rule out the use of “boats with pumps generating waves” to force boats back into French waters.
Philp chuckled: “We don’t have any current plans to do that either.”
When another official getting questioned said the idea had not been considered, Cooper replied: “Can I say to you that it might improve your credibility if you could just rule out some entirely bonkers proposals.”
Reacting online, @Dogmouse1 tweeted: “Oh good grief, I don’t even know where to start on the idea of a giant wave machine aimed at human beings. It’s like a mad toddler fantasising about some mad bath toy but morally, mentally, seriously scary.”
Oh good grief 🙈 I don’t even know where to start on the idea of a giant wave machine aimed at human beings. It’s like a mad toddler fantasising about some mad bath toy but morally, mentally, seriously scary.
— MouseBubble (@Dogmouse1) December 2, 2020
One user by the name of Graham pointed out: “But there will be lots of legitimate boats in the channel. A friend’s husband recently sailed his 30′ yacht across the channel – surely the govt wouldn’t risk putting them at risk, too, would they?”
Paul Brodrick called it “horrifying” while @ferrisdpbistro added: “I don’t think the line ‘Britannia rules the waves’ was written with this callous vision in mind.”