Gibraltar and Isle of Man Distance Themselves from UK Plans to Offshore Asylum System

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Gibraltar and Isle of Man distance themselves from UK offshoring plans, rejecting suggestions they could be used to temporarily hold asylum seekers on behalf of the UK. The two territories said the plan, believed to have been drawn up for the Home Secretary Priti Patel, is not workable.

The Times earlier reported that the two locations were being considered as part of the UK plans of offshoring asylum claims.

Reacting to the reports, Gibraltar’s government said it had not received any proposal on the issue, and its chief minister Fabian Picardo has written to the Home Office that it will not happen.

‘Immigration is an area of my responsibility as chief minister under the Gibraltar constitution, and I can confirm that this issue has not been raised with me at any level. I would have made clear this is not an area on which we believe we can assist the UK.’

He gave legal issues and geographical limitations as reasons why Gibraltar would be unable to host asylum processing for the UK.

The Isle of Man is self-governing, the UK Government would not be able to open any sort of processing centre on the island without consent

‘While we will not ever shirk our responsibility to help the UK, our geography makes some things difficult, however, and the processing of asylum seekers to the UK in Gibraltar would be one of them,’ Picardo said.

Also, a spokesperson for the Isle of Man Government said: ‘The Isle of Man is self-governing, the UK Government would not be able to open any sort of processing centre on the island without consent.’

The number of cases of channel crossings in small boats have risen over the last year, despite government promises to make them an ‘infrequent phenomenon’. In 2020, around 5,000 people reached the UK via this dangerous route which has caused multiple deaths.

gibraltar and isle of man say plans for offshoring asylum claims will not deter people making dangerous journeys to seek asylum
Migrants willing to risk drowning may not be deterred by threats of being sent abroad for asylum claims [Jim Black, Pixabay]

Under ‘Dublin III‘ regulations, there could be agreements made for people seeking asylum to be sent to another EU nation that could take responsibility for their claim.

However, that arrangement ended after the Brexit transition, and now the UK will have to secure a new agreement with any nation it wishes to have such a deal.

This is an important arrangement the Home Secretary should have secured with countries like France where the majority of people crossing the English Channel come through. So far, no such arrangements have been made.

In January, the UK government released new immigration rules so it could send asylum seekers to third countries through which they have travelled or any other safe third country.

Without a new agreement at the end of the Brexit transition period in January, the UK would go to a situation where … it’s impossible to remove people to EU countries.


However, according to immigration experts, the changes remain pointless since the government hasn’t negotiated such agreements with those third countries.

Ms Patel has vowed to stop migrants arriving in the UK via dangerous and unofficial routes and is expected to publish details of plans overhauling the immigration and asylum system in the coming weeks.

Reports say the British government is now discussing with some countries about taking people in return for cash. This is similar to Australia’s controversial system, which has been described as an extreme and abhorrent way of treating asylum seekers.

While Ms Patel’s proposal looks similar to the Australian scheme, there exist some differences, which further raise humanitarian questions. Australia sends people to third locations, such as Papua New Guinea and Narau, before they land on its shores. However, in the UK’s case, the plan is to send them overseas to be processed after they have already arrived.