Sir Keir Starmer’s party has been highly critical of Boris Johnson’s plan to send migrants crossing the English Channel to Rwanda for processing, however, back in 2004 it was reported Mr Blair considered a similar idea to process migrants near their home country before they travelled to the UK.
Mr Johnson announced on Thursday that failed asylum seekers will be flown to Rwanda, where their applications will be processed.
It is hoped the scheme will help to crack down on people smuggling and dangerous boat crossings across the Channel.
According to Home Office figures, at least 4,617 people have made the crossing so far this year, although the Daily Mail reports the number could be as high as 5,500.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has blasted the proposal as “extortionate, unworkable and unethical” on Twitter, however, an unearthed Independent article from 2004 shows that ex-Labour PM Tony Blair had explored a similar plan for migrant processing in Africa.
At the time of his premiership Mr Blair reportedly offered Tanzania an extra £4 million in aid if they opened an asylum camp for Somali refugees to have their applications assessed before they made the journey to the UK.
Mr Blair said the proposed scheme was “sensible” and “perfectly amicable”.
Tory MP for Bassetlaw Brendan Clarke-Smith called the revelation “embarrassing” on Facebook.
He wrote: “Well, this is embarrassing…As I remember the Shadow Home Secretary – who has been so critical of our Rwanda policy – was part of the Blair government back then, too.
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“I’m assuming she objected at the time. Judge for yourself.”
The United Nations said this week that Mr Johnson’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was “illegal”, with the UN Refugee Agency describing it as an “egregious breach of international law”.
UNHCR assistant secretary-general Gillian Triggs said the agency “strongly condemns outsourcing the primary responsibility to consider the refugee status”.
When asked about Australia, which has a similar procedure of processing refugees offshore, Ms Triggs continued: “My point is, just as the Australian policy is an egregious breach of international law and refugee law and human rights law, so too is this proposal by the United Kingdom Government.
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“’It is very unusual, very few states have tried this, and the purpose is primarily deterrent – and it can be effective, I don’t think we’re denying that.
“’But what we’re saying at the UN refugee agency is that there are much more legally effective ways of achieving the same outcome.”
She added that a similar scheme had been trialled in Israel with sending refugees from Eritrea and Sudan to Rwanda for processing, however, they “simply left the country and started the process all over again”.
She concluded: “In other words, it is not actually a long-term deterrent.”