London (CNN)No one takes the job of Britain's interior minister with the aim of becoming popular.
The occupant of the post, officially titled home secretary, sits astride a sprawling government department that oversees the UK's immigration, policing, drugs and counter-terror policy -- sensitive and politically perilous issues that that are not for the faint of heart.
The endurance of the current incumbent is currently being put to the test with a political storm over migration that will require nerves of steel to weather.
Priti Patel, Boris Johnson's pugilistic appointee, is reported to have considered a proposal to send asylum-seekers to two Atlantic islands more than 4,000 miles away from the UK. Aides reportedly considered moving migrants to the isolated British territories of Ascension Island and St. Helena, off the coast of Africa.
Patel has reportedly dismissed the idea, but further alleged proposals emerged Thursday, when The Times newspaper said officials were considering placing asylum-seekers on ferries off the UK coast.
Whether Patel eventually signs off on a plan to hold migrants offshore or not, the hardline proposals reflect the increasingly tough line on immigration under her leadership.
Since she took office in 2019, the first woman of color to hold the post, Britain's policies stance on immigration has hardened, to divisive effect. Patel may not have originated the specific plans outlined in the media this week, but the resulting furore has focused on the Home Secretary, her views and her vow to curb the numbers of migrants who have increasingly been arriving in the UK by crossing the English Channel from France.
"The number of illegal small boat crossings is appalling and unacceptably high," Patel said in a tweet in August. It's true that the number of asylum-seekers arriving by small boats from across the channel has surged since April 2020 -- according to the House of Commons Library, between April and August 2020, around 4,600 people entered Britain this way, up from around 1,800 in the whole of 2019.
"France and other EU states are safe countries," Patel added in her tweet. "Genuine refugees should claim asylum there, not risk their lives and break the law by coming to the UK."
The Home Secretary has repeatedly vowed to make the route "unviable" for migrants.
"Tens of thousands of people have rebuilt their lives in the UK and we will continue to provide safe and legal routes in the future," Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesperson said Wednesday.
"As ministers have said, we are developing plans to reform policies and laws around illegal migration and asylum to ensure we are able to provide protection to those who need it, while preventing abuse of the system and the criminality associated with it."
The leaked plans were furiously condemned by Britain's opposition Labour Party.
Patel's opposition counterpart Nick Thomas-Symonds said the government was "lurching from one inhumane and impractical idea to another."
"The idea of sending people to Ascension Island, creating waves in the English Channel to wash boats back and buying ferries and oil rigs to process asylum claims shows the Government has lost control and all sense of compassion," he said in a statement Thursday.
The practicality of the proposals was also widely mocked in parts of the British press. The Guardian newspaper, a left-of-center publication, derided the Home Office for being "clueless," and dismissed the ideas as stupid and ill developed.