Jeremy Hunt calls Lee Anderson suggestion of sending asylum seekers to Orkney if Rwanda plans fail 'colourful'

​Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has brushed off the suggestion from a Conservative Party deputy chairman that asylum seekers could be held on Orkney if the Rwanda plan fails.

Lee Anderson, who has become known for controversial statements in the past, told GB News this week that those who have fled their countries and come to the UK could be held on a remote Scottish island until their applications are processed.

His comments came after the Supreme Court ruled the existing plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful.

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Asked about the remarks, Mr Hunt told Sky News on Thursday: "Lee will always have colourful suggestions, as he always does actually in British politics.

The West of Orkney. Picture: Reemt PetersThe West of Orkney. Picture: Reemt Peters
The West of Orkney. Picture: Reemt Peters

"But the fact of the matter is we will do what it takes to stop the boats, and I think we've had that clarity from Rishi Sunak."

Mr Anderson had said: "I know it's a bit parky up there this time of year. But if people are genuinely escaping war or persecution, then a nice Scottish island with a few outbuildings would be suitable.

"This is a beautiful country. Parts of Scotland are a 'go to' destination, the remote islands – I'd like to be able to afford a place up there.

"If we can get some accommodation up there, keep these people safe – these people want to be safe, they're fleeing so-called persecution from these war-torn countries. If we can find an island in the Orkneys or up there that's got no-one on there to start off with, put some decent accommodation on, then it's job done."

Conservative Party deputy chairperson Lee Anderson. Picture: Oli Scarf/AFP via Getty ImagesConservative Party deputy chairperson Lee Anderson. Picture: Oli Scarf/AFP via Getty Images
Conservative Party deputy chairperson Lee Anderson. Picture: Oli Scarf/AFP via Getty Images

The issue was raised in the Commons on Thursday and Penny Mordaunt said asylum seekers would not be sent to the Falkland Islands or the Orkney Islands.

Speaking in the Commons, Labour MP Sir George Howarth said: "The right honourable lady will be aware of reports that if, as seems likely, the Government are unable to find a legal way to take that policy forward, they are considering using the Falkland Islands as an alternative.

"Would the right honourable lady take this opportunity to either confirm or deny that the Falkland Islands is a possible alternative to Rwanda?"

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Commons Leader Ms Mordaunt said: "I'm very happy to knock that one on the head. That it is not an alternative to Rwanda nor are various other places that have been mentioned, including the Orkney Islands. That would be definitely out, given the reliability of SNP ferry services."

Mr Anderson's comments drew criticism from Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael, who said the idea was "not a serious proposition".

The Liberal Democrat MP said: "I would be astonished if Lee Anderson could even find Orkney – or in his words 'the Orkneys' – on a map.

"His remarks show inhumanity towards desperate and vulnerable people – and disdain towards island communities to boot. Anderson has form for brainstorming Tory policy live on air. Obviously, this is a novel sort of brainstorming as it does not actually involve the engagement of a brain, but instead looks more like an exercise in corralling as many prejudices as possible into one space and calling it a policy."

He said the comments were an attempt to "kick up dust and distract attention from the complete failure of this Government to manage our asylum and immigration system".



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