A former Conservative cabinet minister has warned that the Home Office’s controversial borders bill risks creating a “British Guantanamo Bay”. David Davis, who served as Brexit secretary from 2016 to 2018, said that the home secretary’s plans to send asylum seekers to another country while their claims are processed may create a facility as notorious as the US detention camp in Cuba.
Guantanamo Bay has been described as a “stain on the human rights record” of the US and the “gulag of our times” with detainees making repeated allegations of torture, sexual degradation and religious persecution.
Davis described Priti Patel’s plans as deeply flawed, noting that the Home Office is unable to explain where its widely criticised offshore asylum processing facilities would even be located.
The MP added that the plans also seemed to gloss over the fact that the majority of asylum seekers were eventually granted refugee status.
“Pushing the problem to another part of the world is just a costly way of delaying the inevitable.”
Davis added: “From mountains of paperwork and chartering RAF flights, to building the required infrastructure and dealing with foreign bureaucracies, the labyrinthine logistics would involve colossal costs the British taxpayer could well do without. At worst, we could inadvertently create a British Guantánamo Bay.”
The nationality and borders bill, due to return to parliament for debate this week, also faces the prospect of a rebellion with Tory MPs seeking to expand the number of people leaving Hong Kong who are eligible for British citizenship.
More than two dozen Conservatives have put their name to an amendment to broaden the UK’s visa programme with the Home Office responding that it has no plans to expand the eligibility criteria.
Opposition to the borders bill continues to mount with British doctors the latest group to lambast its proposals. The British Medical Association (BMA), which has nearly 160,000 members, is among the signatories to a letter addressed to Patel that says the bill and its plans for “offshoring” will cause “lasting and profound harm to the health and wellbeing” of asylum seekers.
John Chisholm of the BMA’s medical ethics committee chair, said: “It is beyond doubt that the proposals within the new bill have deeply alarming health implications.
“The government must ensure that asylum seekers and refugees, many of whom already have complex health needs, are housed in humane conditions with accessible healthcare, indeed preferably in community-based accommodation in the UK.”
Other signatories include Doctors of the World UK, the Faculty of Public Health, the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
The Home Office has defended its plans for offshore asylum centres by saying it wants to “manage the UK’s asylum intake” and that it would help “deter irregular migration and clandestine entry to the UK”.