Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish National Party’s lawmakers in the British Parliament, told the BBC that the proposal was “absolutely chilling.”
There were signs that even those that supported the idea in principle were yet to be convinced.
In an editorial, The Daily Mail, which championed Brexit and has backed efforts to curb migration, was supportive, but it said that the proposal was “fraught with difficulties,” and noted that previous efforts by Britain to curb the flow of migrants across the English Channel had failed.
“From paying France to smash people-smugglers to armored jet skis turning back illegal dinghies, not one Home Office gimmick has so far succeeded,” it wrote.
Parliament is discussing a legal framework that would make it possible to transfer asylum seekers out of the country while their applications are processed and to arrest those who arrive by boat across the English Channel.
Other countries have tried similar tactics to try to deter migrants, including Australia, which has used asylum processing centers on Pacific islands such as Nauru. In September, Denmark’s Parliament passed a law that allows the nation to relocate asylum seekers outside Europe to have their refugee claims assessed, despite criticism from rights groups and the United Nations, but it has not taken the next step and acted on the legislation by relocating anyone.
When Britain began to unfurl elements last year of a plan for immigration that left the door open for offshore asylum processing, an assessment from the United Nations’ refugee agency determined that many of the proposals held potential to undermine Britain’s commitment to the 1951 U.N. convention on refugees.
Andy Hewett, the head of advocacy at the Refugee Council, an organization that works with refugees and asylum seekers in Britain and conducts policy research, said that while it may take time for the full details of the plan to be released, meaning it was not yet possible to form definite conclusions on its legality, the proposals were likely to face many legal challenges.