In 2020, the government of the United Kingdom is facing the electoral defeat of its main transatlantic ally, a possible no-deal Brexit and an unprecedented worldwide pandemic. Yet the Home Office is primarily concerned about another (perceived) critical threat: few thousands migrants crossing the Channel yearly to seek asylum on the island.
Over the past months a wide range of rather creative solutions were suggested to deal with the issue. The Home Office revitalised the ‘good old days’ idea behind the penal colonies of the great White Australia policy and decided that that ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is a valid policy principle after all. In October 2020, externalising asylum processing centres on remote British territories in the Atlantic Ocean was suggested. The Home Office envisioned transferring migrants to Ascension Island – an island 4,000 miles away, barely inhabited and rather inhospitable to human life. Further leaks identified other possible territories being considered for extraterritorial processing, including Moldova, Morocco and Papua New Guinea – which, apparently, were entirely in the dark about the idea. Weeks before, the proposed solution was buying retired ferries and converting them into floating asylum-processing centres. More recently, British people heard about pushing dinghies back to France with a wave machine or fishing asylum seekers with big nets.