After Napoleon and the Boers Home Secretary considered sending asylum seekers to St Helena

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Priti Patel
Home Secretary checks out the British Army Credit: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

A REPORT in the Financial Times suggests that British Home Secretary asked her officials to explore the possibility of building an asylum processing centre in either Ascension Island or St Helena, two remote outposts in the Atlantic Ocean below Africa both of which owe their existence to Napoleon.

Ascension Island was taken over by the British when they decided to exile Napoleon to St Helena as it was the nearest inhabitable island where any attempt by the French to create a rescue base could have been made.

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It’s not the most hospitable of British Overseas Territories and consists mainly of military personnel manning the Wideawake Airfield which was built by the Americans during the Second World War and was important during the Falklands War as a refuelling stop and flights to and from the UK to Falkland Islands still stop there.

There is no indigenous population and most of the civilian workers there come from St Helena and unlike most other UK possessions have absolutely no right of abode, even if they are born there.

It’s a volcanic island with little natural drinking water, relying mainly on catchment areas built by the Royal Marines and a desalination plant.


St Helena which lies 800 miles away from Ascension was until recently completely dependent upon sea communication but finally had an airport built which is unfortunately quite difficult to land at and only smaller aircraft can visit.

The St Helenians mainly work for the Government but do have rights of abode and many travel to the Falklands and the UK to work as this tropical volcanic island doesn’t enjoy the highest standards of living.


Current population is around 4,500 and apart from Napoleon it was also used as what is considered to have been one of the first concentration camps for prisoners captured during the Boer War.

It appears that Ms Patel was taken by the fact that Australia and other countries have used remote islands to house potential migrants but thanks to the criticism that such camps have received, the Financial Times suggests that wiser heads have ruled this idea out.




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