Offshore migrant processing ‘ludicrously impractical’, says ex-international development secretary

A former Conservative international development secretary has argued that processing Channel migrants in offshore facilities would be “ludicrously impractical” and “eye-wateringly expensive”.

The remarks from Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, came after right-leaning think tank Policy Exchange called for an overhaul of UK border policies to tackle the Channel crisis.

Mitchell served as international development secretary

Alongside migration via lorries, over 28,300 people made the dangerous journey over the channel in 2021- more than double the figures for 2020.

The think tank’s ‘Plan A’ would be an agreement with France to accept the return of migrants and asylum-seekers attempting to cross the Channel in small boats.

They say that if such an agreement cannot be reached, Plan B would be to remove persons attempting to enter the UK on small boats to a location outside the UK – whether the Channel Islands, Sovereign Bases in Cyprus or Ascension Island – where their asylum claims would be considered.  Under these rules, economic migrants would be returned to their home country, or to some other state willing to receive them.

Responding to The Times newspaper’s coverage of the proposals, Mitchell wrote that: “the suggestion that taxpayers should pay to detain and process refugees 4,000 miles away from Britain is ludicrously impractical and would be eye-wateringly expensive”.

He argued that given that “the Australians have abandoned their failed version of this policy, after incurring costs of £2 million per person per year”, Britain would “not want to pay for a ‘British Guantanamo Bay'” or wish for “Britain be the only country in the world to adopt this failed experiment.”

He said a “cheaper, more humane and more practical solution” to the crisis would be to speed up the “processing of asylum claims and hiring and training the necessary staff”.