Priti Patel asked officials to explore building a migrant processing centre on Ascension Island

A picture of Home secretary Priti Patel with two men in suits behind her

Home secretary Priti Patel asked staff to explore building an asylum seeker processing centre on Ascension Island - Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

Priti Patel has asked officials to explore sending migrants to an isolated island more than 4,000 miles away from Britain for processing.

The home secretary allegedly ordered her own staff to look into transferring asylum seekers who arrive in the UK to a centre on the south Atlantic islet of Ascension Island , the FT reports.

The paper reports she also asked officials to consider another centre on St Helena, another British Overseas Territory. The Foreign office was also approached to examine the proposals.

Patel ultimately canned the idea, however the Home Office has not denied the proposals were examined.

Labour condemned the scheme as "inhumane, completely impractical and wildly expensive".

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: "This ludicrous idea is inhumane, completely impractical and wildly expensive. So it seems entirely plausible this Tory government came up with it."

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Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action, said the proposals were "deeply troubling".

"It’s deeply troubling that our home secretary even considered that this immoral and inhumane plan was a serious solution to a humanitarian crisis," he said.

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“Our asylum system is descending into chaos.

“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.

“There are humane and practical solutions based on safe and legal routes that are fully within the home secretary’s power to use.

“When it needed to, the Conservative government resettled almost 20,000 people fleeing the war in Syria. It must do it again, and quickly.”

A Home Office official said: "The UK has a long and proud history of offering refuge to those who need protection. Tens of thousands of people have rebuilt their lives in the UK and we will continue to provide safe and legal routes in the future.

"As ministers have said we are developing plans to reform policies and laws around illegal migration and asylum to ensure we are able to provide protection to those who need it, while preventing abuse of the system and the criminality associated with it."

Ascension Island has a population of 1,000 people and is home to an RAF base used to defend the Falkland Islands.

Moving and supplying asylum seekers there was said to be a considerable logistical challenge.

The proposals arise at the same time Patel met with former Australian prime minister turned British trade envoy Tony Abbott, who was known for his tough stance on immigration and promoted turning back asylum seeker boats heading to Australia.

Australia has its own offshore processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island. Both were deemed "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment" and unlawful under international law by International Criminal Court in January this year.

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