The U.K. is looking at using offshore centers to process asylum seekers as part of a shake-up of its immigration system, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman told reporters on Wednesday.
Asked about a report in the Financial Times that Home Secretary Priti Patel asked officials to look at using Ascension Island – 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) away in the Atlantic Ocean – to screen people seeking asylum, James Slack said ministers are looking at a range of options in preparation for an overhaul of the U.K.’s immigration processes.
“As part of that work we have been looking at what a whole host of other countries do to inform a plan for the U.K.,” Slack told reporters on a conference call. “The U.K. has a long and proud history of offering refuge to those who need protection” and will continue to do so, he said.
Ministers need to take action to ensure those who require help are protected while preventing abuse of the system and deterring people smugglers, Slack said, citing the number of people crossing the English Channel in small boats during the summer as an indication of the scale of the problem.
Tony Abbott, the former Australian prime minister who was hired as a trade adviser by the U.K. earlier this year, championed offshore processing of refugees when he was in office, drawing criticism from nations and charities around the world.