BORIS Johnson has been urged to rule out plans for asylum seekers to have their claims processed off shore. 

Ian Blackford, SNP MP and the party’s Westminster leader, has written to the Prime Minsiter urging clarification over the move.

It comes after it emerged that the Home Office had scoped out using Ascension island, a volcanic island 4000 miles from the UK, as a base for processing claims of asylum seekers before deciding against it.

Downing Street also did not rule out using Scottish islands for such a move, sparking outrage from MPs and campaigners. 

Read more:Downing Street will not rule out using Scottish Islands for asylum processing plan

The proposals for remote processing of claims have been widely condemned with United Nations representative to the UK, Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, who said it would breach the UK’s obligations. 

Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action, said it was “deeply troubling” that Home Secretary Priti Patel even considered such a plan.

In his letter to Mr Johnson, Mr Blackford said he was seeking “confirmation that the UK government will not consider creating an offshore asylum centre following reports the Home Secretary asked government officials to explore the construction of an asylum processing centre on Ascension Island.

"The report, published in the Financial Times, also states the Home Secretary's officials looked at the possibility of building an asylum centre on St Helena, while The Herald has reported that Downing Street has refused to rule out attempts to use Scottish islands for such a centre." 

He added: "As you will be aware, the UK government is committed under international law to provide a safe haven for those fleeing persecution.
"The SNP strongly opposes any plans to create an offshore asylum centre as a clear breach of human rights."

Speaking to The Herald, the Ross, Skye and Lochabar MP said the government's consideration of such measures was "a new low"

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He said: "Boris Johnson must rule out any plans for offshore detention centres. The fact the UK government has even considered the move is deeply troubling and speaks volumes about their attitude to some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

"From the conditions of UK detention centres, Windrush and the 'Go-Home Vans', the Home Office already has an abysmal track record – but plans to ship asylum seekers 4,000 miles away to a remote island detention centre is a new low.

"Reports that the Tory government is also refusing to rule out attempts to use Scottish islands for an asylum centre beggars belief. Any such abhorrent plans would be resisted in the strongest terms by the SNP and the Scottish Parliament.

"The UK government is committed under international law to provide a safe haven for those fleeing persecution. Boris Johnson must categorically rule out any option of offshore detention centres for asylum seekers."


One of the UK's most remote MPs, the Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael, has also hit out at the measures.

The MP for Orkney and Shetland said that any attempt to establish a remote asylum processing centre on a Scottish island was “disrespectful” to both those claiming asylum and the island communities.

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He said: "Scotland’s islands are welcoming places but to consider moves like this without making any effort to engage with the communities concerned would be as disrespectful to islanders as it is insulting to those seeking sanctuary themselves.

“I wonder if any consideration at all has been given to the needs for housing, healthcare, education and other public services.

"Instead of coming up with hare-brained schemes like this, the Home Secretary would do better to concentrate her efforts on getting immigration and asylum systems that work efficiently and treat all people with respect.

"That we are discussing these ideas at all suggests a way of operating by this government that is entirely backwards-looking.

"It is an attitude straight out of the 19th century to think that inconvenient people can be shipped off to islands to keep them out of sight and mind. 
"This is no way for a democratic government to work.” 

HeraldScotland: Ian Murray during the Labour Party annual conference in Brighton last year. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh south, said the government's plans were "disgusting".

He said:"This is a disgusting and inhumane proposal.

“It’s frankly disgraceful that the Tories have even considered it.

“It tells you everything you need to know about the Tories’ shameful attitude towards asylum seekers, and this proposal would be opposed by Labour all the way.”

Downing Street and the Home Office were contacted for comment but did not respond.