Alderney dismay it could be used to house asylum seekers

ALDERNEY politicians have reacted with dismay to a vote in the House of Commons that has paved the way for asylum seekers to be sent offshore to be processed.

Alderney States member Alex Snowdon. (30653859)
Alderney States member Alex Snowdon. (30653859)

The lower house overturned a series of amendments introduced by the House of Lords to the Nationality and Borders Bill on Tuesday, despite some opposition within its own parliamentary ranks.

It comes after Home Secretary Priti Patel appointed one of the architects of the ‘offshoring’ plan, Alexander Downer, to review the UK’s border force and its operations.

Mr Downer, who as Australian foreign minister instigated a controversial policy of turning back boats and detaining asylum seekers on the pacific island of Nauru, is a trustee of the Policy Exchange think tank, which last month published a report entitled Stopping The Small Boats: a Plan B.

The report recommended, as plan A, sending back all asylum seekers arriving on small boats to the countries from which they had set sail.

However, it introduced a second option of sending them to an offshore detention centre and named Alderney as a possible destination, along with Ascension Island and Cyprus. Ascension has since been ruled out by the Home Office.

‘It’s disappointing to see that proposals seem to be being progressed,’ said Alderney States member Alex Snowdon.

‘It seems to be being implemented and it’s a bit concerning that there’s been absolutely no communication with Alderney about it.’

He said he was particularly concerned that the plan appeared to be based on Australia’s use of Nauru as an ‘offshore processing’ centre, both because of the potential reputational damage and the possible costs.

Australia’s operations in Nauru have been heavily criticised by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and were declared illegal by the UN’s Human Rights Committee in 2016.

‘If the plan is to replicate what’s been done in Nauru, that’s also concerning,’ Mr Snowdon said, ‘and the costs of that operation have become astronomical.’

Opponents of the plan in last week’s House of Commons debate argued that the scheme would be so costly, it would be cheaper to house the asylum seekers in the Ritz and send their children to Eton.

The cost to Australian taxpayers of housing asylum seekers at Nauru had risen to $4.3m (£2.4m) per asylum seeker by last year, or just under $12,000 (£6,700) per day, according to figures provided by the Australian government to the Senate in Canberra.

Policy & Finance chairman Bill Abel said he was not aware of any official approach to either of the governments of Alderney or Guernsey.

‘They’ve never talked to anybody in Alderney,’ he said. ‘The plan doesn’t make any sense at all, what they’re suggesting.’

Both he and Mr Snowdon confirmed that any official approach would be expected to go through Guernsey, as it retains responsibility for managing law enforcement, health and education services.

The States of Guernsey has not said whether any approach has been made by the UK government.

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