HOME Secretary Priti Patel has come under fire for apparently considering sending asylum seekers 4,000 miles away from Britain.
The proposal was reportedly to take them to Ascension Island, a remote British overseas territory in the South Atlantic, while their cases were processed. The 33-square-mile volcanic outcrop is almost 1,000 miles from the nearest land.
Another possible processing site said to have been proposed is the slightly larger but equally remote island of St Helena, 700 miles south of Ascension, where Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815.
The proposals now appear to have been dropped. But what is not generally known is that Boney himself ended up on St Helena following a failed asylum application.
In July 1815, after surrendering to the British and being held on a warship in Torbay, the former French emperor wrote to the Prince Regent – the future King George IV– asking to be allowed to settle in England.
Considering that Bonaparte had launched a 12-year series of wars in which he planned to invade Britain and had conquered much of Europe, leaving possibly 6,500,000 dead and costing Britain a fortune, his brass neck was astonishing. Not surprisingly, his asylum request was turned down
Mind you, he did have previous. He was first exiled in 1814 to the island of Elba, off the west coast of Italy, but escaped to wreak further havoc before his downfall at Waterloo.
On August 9, 1815, Napoleon was despatched to St Helena aboard the Royal Navy ship Northumberland, reaching the island after a ten-week voyage. He died there in 1821. His remains were disinterred in 1840 and transferred to Paris, to be placed in a tomb at Les Invalides.
So does Boney’s story hold a lesson for those checking out asylum applicants in Britain today? It’s hard to say.
But the Napoleonic bloodline lives on and there’s no telling if any of his descendants will try their luck where he failed in 1815.
So if any rather podgy little chaps wearing bicorn hats, with one hand tucked inside their waistcoats, are spotted stepping out of dinghies near Dover, they should be questioned very, very carefully.