Priti Patel ‘in talks with several countries’ over migrant deportation plan

Denmark and Turkey among countries that may be paid to take in cross-Channel asylum seekers

Migrants attempt to cross the English Channel
(Image credit: Luke Dray/Getty Images)

Asylum seekers who illegally cross the Channel to reach Britain may be sent abroad for processing under new plans being considered by Priti Patel.

The home secretary is in talks with “several non-EU countries” about taking migrants “in return for money”, the Daily Mail reports. The strategy, which would require law changes, is part of Patel’s push to take “a much tougher stance on unauthorised migration” and “stop people smugglers”, the paper continues.

Turkey is among among the potential third countries to which migrants could be sent to await either being “returned to their home nation or the safe country they arrived from”.

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The Times says that the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar and the Isle of Man, a Crown dependency, have also “been discussed by officials” as potential options. “Other islands off the British coast, possibly in Scotland”, are “in the mix” too, the paper continues.

Ministers have scrapped proposals leaked to the press last year to send migrants to Ascension Island and St Helena in the south Atlantic. But Patel is now reportedly eyeing “countries in north Africa, such as Morocco”, and “Denmark, which has a hard-line policy towards asylum seekers”.

On the flip side, government insiders are claiming that Patel is also planning new legal routes to the UK for migrants fleeing war zones. The Times says that “persecuted minorities such as Coptic Christians under threat in Egypt and Iraq” may be offered safe passage as well.

Australia-style system

Patel’s plan is thought to have drawn inspiration from Australia’s “Operation Sovereign Borders”, which bans “refugees who arrive by sea” from “ever settling in Australia - without exception”, Politico reports.

“Critics (and some proponents) of the system say it is brutal by design,” says the news site, but “it works”. The number of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat has fallen from 20,587 in 2013 to zero following the launch of the project three-and-a-half years ago.

Sending migrants to third countries in exchange for money is also “similar to a controversial scheme operated by Australia”, the Daily Mail says.

But ministers believe the proposed UK strategy “would be compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights”, The Times adds.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council charity, told the paper that the Australia model is “inhumane” and would “undermine our nation’s proud tradition of providing protection to people fleeing persecution and terror”.

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Joe Evans is the world news editor at He joined the team in 2019 and held roles including deputy news editor and acting news editor before moving into his current position in early 2021. He is a regular panellist on The Week Unwrapped podcast, discussing politics and foreign affairs. 

Before joining The Week, he worked as a freelance journalist covering the UK and Ireland for German newspapers and magazines. A series of features on Brexit and the Irish border got him nominated for the Hostwriter Prize in 2019. Prior to settling down in London, he lived and worked in Cambodia, where he ran communications for a non-governmental organisation and worked as a journalist covering Southeast Asia. He has a master’s degree in journalism from City, University of London, and before that studied English Literature at the University of Manchester.