Abbott ‘influencing’ plan to dump refugees on remote islands
Britain has looked to house asylum seekers on volcanic outcrop island refugee centres 6500km away from their shores, in what some officials have blamed on Australia's unwanted influence on its former mother country.
Home Office officials were asked to explore building asylum processing centres in the South Atlantic on Ascension Island and St Helena, to discourage the annual 34,000 migrants registering for asylum on the UK.
According to Whitehall, the idea of using remote islands, that sit between the coast of Africa and Brazil, was based on Australia's boat stopping program using Nauru and Papua New Guinea centres to discourage arrivals.
No decision has been made but the request by the British Home Secretary Priti Patel for her department to scope the option has been cited as "further evidence" of former prime minister Tony Abbott's influence on British PM Boris Johnson.
Mr Abbott was recently appointed as trade adviser to the Johnson government and met with Ms Patel recently although her departmental scoping began prior to the meeting.
Mr Abbott's unpaid appointment as a trade envoy earlier this month has already attracted criticism from both sides of UK politics, with the outspoken former Australian politician branded an unwanted "agent of foreign influence" by the British press. This is despite his expertise in negotiating tricky trade circles in the Asia Pacific, something Mr Johnson has said was desperately needed by his government in a post-Brexit world.
Mr Abbott's strong stance on immigration are well known both in Australia and in Britain where he made headlines as prime minister 2013-2015 as are his connections in the conservative politics in both the UK and the US.
Britons are now reacting with fury at the "illegal migrant" centres being proposed and again blaming Australia for instilling the idea.
There were no such protests when the British government cited Australia's successful Medicare as a model being considered for its ailing NHS public healthcare system.
The British press has confirmed Whitehall had been looking at the option at the directing of Ms Patel but she now appeared to be going cold on the idea.
This was in part due to scoping by the Foreign Office unable to mirror the Royal Australian Navy's ability to assist in re-directing ships, mainly because the British islands were so far away from the UK.
By the end of last month more than 5000 people have crossed the Channel to England in dinghies, more than double seen in the whole of 2019.
"We have been looking at how other countries have been dealing with this issue," said one well-placed individual told the Financial Times. "We have been scoping everything. No decisions have been made by ministers."
Ascension has left than 1000 inhabitants but a large RAF base and an Anglo-American signals intelligence facility and space tracking station.
Home Affairs would neither confirm nor deny what its future plans were
"As ministers have said we are developing plans to reform policies and laws around illegal migration and asylum to ensure we are able to provide protection to those who need it, while preventing abuse of the system and the criminality associated with it," an official said in a statement issued to the British media.
Originally published as Abbott 'influencing' plan to dump refugees on remote islands