Tuesday 29 June 2021 6:30 am

DEBATE: Should the UK have off-shore processing for refugees?

Alan Mendoza is executive director of the Henry Jackson Society.
and Jonathan Thomas
Jonathan Thomas is a senior fellow at the Social Market Foundation

Priti Patel is planning on introducing controversial plans to process refugees abroad in an attempt to stop the surge of migrants making the dangerous crossing over the channel. This year, more than 5,600 migrants have made the journey. Ms Patel is reported to be considering destinations as far-flung as Rwanda for off-shore processing. Is it a good idea? Alan Mendoza of the Henry Jackson society and Jonathan Thomas Senior Fellow at the Social Market Foundation take on the debate.

Alan Mendoza executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, says YES

Offshore processing for those seeking UK entry is a necessary move when ever greater flows of people are seeking access to these shores.

Genuine asylum seekers have nothing to fear from such a move. When travelling from a place of destruction, it is not the destination that matters but the ability to reach a safe haven. Whether that is in the UK or a facility under British control is immaterial: it is freedom from fear we should be offering.

The equation is tougher for illegal immigrants, and rightly so. Such people have no right to automatic entry here but know currently that if they can somehow make it to the UK, then deportation rarely follows, even when circumstances merit it. As a result, illegal immigrants are prepared to take terrible risks – placing themselves at the mercy of criminal gangs and the Channel – to secure passage here.

The current system rewards dangerous behaviour and rule-breaking. It is time to apply a disincentive and take back control to ensure that UK arrivals are processed fairly and that only the genuinely deserving benefit.

Migrants With Children Arrive On Kent Beach After Crossing Channel
More then 5,600 migrants have made the dangerous crossing across the Channel this year (Photo by Luke Dray/Getty Images)

Jonathan Thomas, senior fellow at the Social Market Foundation says NO

The British public has been described as “willing the ends, but often too squeamish about the means” of immigration control. Offshore processing thus finds more favour with the public than its naysayers admit. Out of sight, out of mind.

Asylum seeker numbers coming to the UK are low compared with previous eras. But boats crossing the Channel are very much in sight and in mind. So the Government needs to be seen to do something.  But offshore processing is a hugely expensive and cumbersome response. Australia is often cited as the model. But while it may seem out of sight out of mind, Australia’s brutal approach was hardly ever out of the news, for all the wrong reasons, and ended up with its referral to the International Criminal Court.

A more humane and cost effective alternative may be to devote concerted efforts and money to a form of agreement with France, a perfectly safe country, which would allow those with genuine asylum claims and connections with the UK to come here safely, while helping France to accommodate the rest.  

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.