UK under pressure to tackle ‘wretched’ migrant centre conditions

A child looks out from an immigration processing centre at Manston, a former UK airfield [Hannah McKay/Reuters]

Migrants transferred to already overcrowded, ‘overwhelmed’ Manston processing centre after petrol bomb attack on another facility.

British politicians from both opposition and governing parties have demanded the Conservative government improve conditions at an overcrowded facility for migrants, described by an independent inspector as “wretched”.

Hundreds of people who crossed the English Channel in small boats have been moved to Manston, a former airfield in southeast England, after another processing centre was hit with petrol bombs on Sunday by an attacker who then killed himself.

There already were 3,000 people at the facility, which is intended to hold about half that number.

Lawmakers are demanding that Home Secretary Suella Braverman come to parliament on Monday to answer questions about conditions at Manston.

It is supposed to be a temporary processing centre where new arrivals spend 24 hours before moving on to longer-term accommodation, but refugee groups say some people have been stuck there for weeks.

Conditions at the site in Kent were described last week by Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration David Neal as “pretty wretched”.

Detainees reach through a fence at an immigration processing centre in Manston, United Kingdom, October 31, 2022. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Neal told a parliamentary committee that out of 11,000 people who had gone through the centre in the past two months, there had been four cases of diphtheria.

Local lawmaker Roger Gale, a member of the governing Conservatives, visited Manston on Sunday and said it had deteriorated significantly in recent days and weeks.

“It is overwhelmed,” he told BBC Radio.

“There are simply far too many people there, and this situation should never have been allowed to develop, and I’m not sure that it hasn’t almost been developed deliberately,” he said.

Migrants are processed after disembarking a Border Force vessel carrying migrants rescued in the English Channel, at Dover Dock
People are processed after disembarking from a Border Force vessel carrying migrants rescued in the English Channel [Stuart Brock/EPA]

Hotel accommodation

Gale said a decision had been made in the Home Office not to book hotel accommodation to house migrants and he had requested that a government minister explain the situation to parliament.

Asked if some believed worse conditions would put people off travelling to Britain, Gale said: “I would say that is wholly unacceptable. … We need a grown-up solution to what is a very real problem.”

A spokesperson for Britain’s Home Office – the government department responsible for immigration, crime and policing – said the number of arrivals using small boats was putting the asylum system under “incredible pressure”.

Detainees look out from an immigration processing centre in Manston [Hannah McKay/Reuters]

“Manston remains resourced and equipped to process migrants securely, and we will provide alternative accommodation as soon as possible,” the spokesperson said.

New British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office said last week that he had discussed the issue of migration across the English Channel with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Charlie Taylor, the chief inspector of prisons, said the Home Office needed to “get a grip” and he would be returning soon to the site that he had inspected over the summer.

“They need to speed up the processing of migrants,” he told BBC Radio. “They need to make suitable provisions so people can be moved off site as quickly as possible and housed in humane and decent conditions.”



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