How can the UK stop illegal immigrants? Water cannons, nets, and boats converted into asylum centers are all under consideration

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Nets in the sea, artificial waves, and asylum centers located thousands of miles from British shores? Those are just a few examples of how British Home Secretary Priti Patel wants to stop asylum seekers from entering the country.

“The British immigration and asylum system is ruined and not working. It is our responsibility to act. I will create a new system that will be strict and fair,“ Patel said recently at a virtual convention of British Conservatives.

Compared to last year, the number of people coming to the British shores on rubber boats has quadrupled. A new solution involving submarine nets is being proposed to stop the boats, according to Czech news portal

“Yes, there will be various ways to safely disable the engine. We will then take the migrants on board of our ships,“ confirmed Dan O’Mahoney from the Ministry of the Interior to the British media.

The government considered, among other things, that the migrants could then be accommodated on the platforms of decommissioned oil wells in the North Sea. The cabinet eventually rejected this option but may start using specially adapted old ferries for this purpose. Asylum applications would then be processed directly on them, outside British soil. The measure is intended to discourage dangerous journeys across the English Channel and “prevent abuse of the system and crime,” according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Authorities are also exploring the idea of using water cannons to create waves that would prevent boats from sailing. The establishment of detention centers completely outside Britain is also being considered, even on the other side of the world. While the plan to move migrants to some of the world’s most isolated islands was leaked to the media and protested by human rights groups, the government is still considering the proposal. The islands of Ascension and Saint Helena in the South Atlantic, which are part of the British overseas territory, are under consideration, but also areas in Moldova, Morocco, and Papua New Guinea.

According to Dan O’Mahoney, whose task is to end illegal travel across the English Channel, the United Kingdom’s Home Office is considering using nets to stop the propellers of boats carrying migrants to prevent migrants from sailing dangerously through the Strait of Dover on small rubber dinghies.

O’Mahoney revealed the government’s plan in an interview for the Sunday edition of the British daily The Telegraph. When asked if it was the same method the Royal Navy was testing, using nets to clog ship propellers, he replied, “Yes, this is the type. Thanks to this, we will safely switch off the engine, then take the migrants on board of our ship.”

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage had previously commented on the proposal of using nets, labeling it idiotic

This is one of the latest tactics that ministers and government officials are reportedly considering. Also being considered is the use of water cannons to redirect boats using waves, creating asylum centers on discarded ferries, or sending migrants to remote islands in the Atlantic Ocean. 

Australia’s immigration model was a winner

Australia’s successful anti-immigration policy is widely admired for its effectiveness.

The UK’s consideration of Papua New Guinea as a potential country to send boat migrants is no coincidence, according to Patel. It also happens to be one of the islands used by Australia as a migrant detention center. Patel has labeled Australia as a model for the new British immigration policy. Even though the Australian approach is controversial, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot has urged the UK government to adopt a similar approach or be overrun by illegal migrants. 

“It’s nothing new, it’s a recycling model that Australia has been using since 2001. For governments that like to say they want to have control over immigration, this approach is very attractive. However, this approach completely loses sight of what impact it could ultimately have on people,” noted Ben Doherty, an Australian correspondent for The Guardian, who has long been interested in the operation of Australian detention centers.

“It’s worse than prison,” writer Behrouz Boochani, who spent seven years in detention in New Guinea, said.

Further details were provided four years ago due to the leak of the so-called Nauru Files, 2,000 official reports from the detention center on the island of Nauru, which described cases of violence, self-harm, and sexual abuse.

Despite such complaints, boat migrants rarely try to reach Australia anymore, with most deterred by the potential consequences. 

In the case of Britain, however, it is currently unlikely that similar detention centers thousands of miles from the British coast or on the other side of the world will be set up because of legal and diplomatic consequences, but also because of the logistical and financial costs of operating them. Still, similar detention centers closer to the British mainland are clearly under consideration.

Title image: British Home Secretary Priti Patel leaves after a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s European Union divorce bill faces two votes Tuesday, with lawmakers first being asked to approve it in principle, followed by a vote on the government’s schedule for debate and possible amendments. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

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