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Downing Street push to send asylum seekers abroad

a bench in front of 10 Downing Street: Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

Top story: ‘Significant political and logistical obstacles’

Hello and welcome to this Thursday briefing with me, Alison Rourke.

Downing Street has asked officials to consider the option of sending asylum seekers to Moldova, Morocco or Papua New Guinea to be held in offshore detention centres, according to documents seen by the Guardian. The Foreign Office (FCO) was asked by No 10 to “offer advice on possible options for negotiating an offshore asylum processing facility similar to the Australian model in Papua New Guinea and Nauru”. But the FCO’s advice appeared highly dismissive of the idea, warning of “significant political and logistical obstacles” to sending asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea. It said it was “highly unlikely” that Morocco would agree to hosting asylum seekers and that Moldova had “endemic” corruption. Plans to process asylum seekers at offshore centres in Ascension or St Helena would be “extremely expensive and logistically complicated” given the remoteness of the islands, the documents said. A Whitehall source familiar with the government plans said the proposals were part of a slate of new policies that would “discourage” and “deter” migrants from entering the UK illegally. Australia’s offshore processing regime has been widely criticised by human rights groups. Graham Thom from Amnesty International Australia said the system was both “in breach of international law” and “hugely expensive”.

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‘Severe disruption to services’ – Tens of thousands could die because the NHS suspended such a large proportion of normal care to focus on tackling Covid-19, MPs have warned. Illnesses that went undetected or untreated included cancer and heart disease, the Commons health and social care committee has said. “We’ve heard of severe disruption to services, especially cancer, and here we could be looking at tens of thousands of avoidable deaths within a year,” said the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who chairs the cross-party select committee. Once the lockdown began on 23 March, GP urgent referrals for cancer fell by 62%, the number of MRI and CT scans to diagnose the disease plummeted by 75% and by mid-May, 36,000 cancer operations had been cancelled. It comes after the PM confronted critics critics of his coronavirus strategy on Wednesday, insisting there was “only one way of doing this” and that he was not willing to simply “let the virus take its course”.

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US election – Joe Biden has broken fundraising records following the acrimonious presidential debate, raising $3.8m in an hour, according to his campaign manager. Biden said his opponent’s performance was a “national embarrassment”, calling out his refusal to denounce white supremacist groups such as the Proud Boys. Meanwhile, Donald Trump gloated over the unedifying TV spectacle’s ratings in a rally speech on Wednesday night in Minnesota. But the Commission on Presidential Debates seemed more concerned about the remaining two debates, issuing a surprise statement saying it would soon announce “additional structure … to the format of the remaining debates, to ensure a more orderly