The United Nations Refugee Agency has warned that Priti Patel’s plans of processing asylum seekers offshore risks a breach of ‘international refugee and human rights obligations.’ The Home Secretary will publish the proposed legislation next week to enable the government to send asylum seekers abroad for processing as she opens talks with Denmark over sharing a processing centre in Africa.
The Times reported that Home Office ministers and officials have discussed their proposals with counterparts in Denmark as they had passed its own law to process asylum seekers outside Europe.
Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, the UN refugee agency’s representative to the UK, stated that she was ‘extremely concerned’ and urged the UK to ‘refrain from externalising its asylum obligations’. Pagliuchi-Lor commented that asylum individuals cannot be ‘outsourced or transferred without effective safeguards in place, both in law and practice,’ and ‘the forced transfers’ of people to other countries with ‘inadequate protection safeguards and resources’ risks a breach of international human rights obligations.
Commentators have drawn parallels with Australia’s controversial offshoring asylum processing on Papua New Guinea or the nearby island nation of Nauru. The International Criminal Court had previously described the conditions on those islands as constituting ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment’ in violation of international law. Sonya Sceats, the chiefexecutive of Freedom from Torture tweeted that these proposed plans are ‘extremely cruel’, ‘highly risky’ and ‘going to cost billions!!’
Patel failed to consult not only UNHCR, but also the ENTIRE COUNTRY on a policy proposal that is:
👎 extremely cruel
👎 highly risky – to health and to Britain’s reputation
👎 going to cost billions!! https://t.co/X6DngzpPLr
— Sonya Sceats 🧡 (@SonyaSceats) June 28, 2021
Similarly, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) tweeted that these plans were ‘inhumane and farcical’.