Wave machines designed to push refugee dinghies back across the Channel are among a range of measures to have been considered by officials in Priti Patel’s Home Office department.
The department has been looking at ways to disrupt refugees attempting to enter the UK by crossing from the French coast in small boats.
The Financial Times reports “blue sky thinking” led officials to come up with ideas such as obstacles in the Channel, linking boats to create a barricade and fitting vessels with pumps that could generate waves to force dinghies back into French waters were also considered. However, this has been rejected over safety concerns.
The ideas have been put forward by the government after hundreds of refugees have recently tried to make the crossing from France to the UK on rafts and dinghies – an increase in numbers the UN has since described as “paling in comparison” to unauthorised crossings seen in other countries.
Other details to have emerged in the media about Home Office immigration plans have been equally controversial.
The government would also not rule out constructing offshore migrant centres on the Ascension Islands – a volcanic land mass closer to Brazil than the UK and the PM’s official spokesperson said that the government was considering all options.
According to The Times, the government is considering using countries such as Papua New Guinea, Moldova and Morocco as future asylum processing sites at the direct suggestion of the PM.
The paper has added that floating processing plants were mooted, with disused ferries being put forward by the government as a means to hold refugees. The Home Office was also considering decommissioned oil platforms in the North Sea but this was ruled out due to safety and logistical reasons.
The reports from the government have now fuelled speculation that the UK is following a similar immigration stance to that of Australia, where refugees are held in detention centres in countries such as Nauru and the Manus Islands in Papua New Guinea.
The opposition have hit back at government plans, with shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds, accusing the party of presiding over an inhumane immigration policy, despite contrition from MPs over the hostile environment policy that had led to the Windrush Scandal.
He wrote on Twitter: “This is a vile example of how degraded an environment the Tories have created.
“The Windrush Review was damning about the inhumane culture they have created at the Home Office. They’ve learned nothing.”
The UK representative of the UN High Commission for Refugees, Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, said this would be a departure to the UK’s immigration policy if the government went ahead by sending refugees to far-flung islands.
“This is the Australian model and I think we have already seen that the Australian model has brought about incredible suffering on people who are guilty of no more than seeking asylum.”
Speaking to MPs, she added it was “extremely inappropriate in terms of the commitments that the country should have to human rights” and also “incredibly impractical and expensive”.
“I do hope the UK will not choose to go down this way”, she added.
But according to a snap poll, most of the UK’s population support greater immigration measures and the policy has strong support amongst Conservative voters.
YouGov asked 2109 British adults whether sending refugees to the Ascension Islands was “a good or bad idea?” – with 40% responding favorably compared to 35% who disapproved.
Among Tory voters, 62% were in favour and 21% opposed. These figures change with age, with only 25% of 18 to 24 year olds approving, compared to 51% of the over 65s.