Company running services at overcrowded Manston centre records millions in profit

Mitie Care and Custody has won several government contracts to process migrants this year, while another UK business running hotels and housing for asylum seekers posts 600% profit increase

Children inside the Manston immigration short-term holding centre located in Thanet, Kent. PA
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Mitie Care and Custody, a British company that provides security in the overcrowded government-run facility in Manston, reported a profit of £6 million ($6.9m) for the year to March 31, up 13 per cent from the year before.

In its latest accounts, the company, which provides “outsourced custody services” to the UK Home Office, attributed its 35 per cent revenue increase this year to “new contract wins” and “additional projects delivered”.

In a statement to The National, Mitie said it had been appointed by the Home Office to provide security and specialist detention custody officers for the migrant centre.

It added that it was one of a number of companies contracted by the government to provide services at the site, which has fallen under recent scrutiny following revelations of excessive stays of detainees in “dire” conditions.

Manston, a former military base in Kent, opened as a processing centre in February — a month before Mitie Care and Custody’s latest accounts were filed — to handle the growing number of people reaching the UK in small boats.

Migrants are meant to be held there for a maximum of five days while undergoing security and identity checks, but recent reports have revealed that people are being kept there several weeks and in shocking conditions.

Distressing pictures have surfaced showing people reaching through fences in the overcrowded asylum processing centre in Kent after independent border inspector David Neal told MPs last week that he had been left speechless by the “really dangerous” situation there.

On Sunday, about 4,000 people were housed at Manston — more than double the 1,600 the temporary centre was originally designed for — with at least eight cases of diphtheria and a case of MRSA recorded at the former Royal Air Force base.

About 700 had to be moved there on Saturday after a man threw petrol bombs attached to fireworks at a British immigration border force facility in Dover.

On Monday, the Guardian reported that another British company which manages hotels and other accommodation for asylum seekers in the UK had enjoyed bumper earnings.

According to the newspaper, Home Office accommodation providers get better terms on their contracts once the asylum seeker population exceeds 70,000, as it has for more than a year.

Clearsprings Ready Homes, which has a 10-year contract from the UK Home Office to manage housing for asylum seekers across the country, recorded a 600 per cent increase in its 2021 profit to £28m from £4.4m in the year to January 31.

The company’s three directors shared dividends of just under £28m this year, up from £7m in the previous year.

With the highest number of claims for two decades and record delays for asylum seekers awaiting a decision, the backlog of cases to be processed is overwhelming and leading to rapidly increasing costs for the government.

While businesses cash in on the UK’s increasingly bitter migrant crisis, asylum seekers themselves remain caught up in a high-risk and under-resourced system facing a long backlog.

UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who is under fire after saying that Britain is facing an “invasion” of immigrants, has been accused of allowing numbers to increase at the Manston processing centre instead of moving people to hotels.

Ms Braverman insisted to MPs that she did not block emergency accommodation for migrants awaiting processing after crossing the English Channel, amid growing questions about her strategy for dealing with the record numbers of people arriving in the UK in small boats.

On Monday, the Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale, whose Kent constituency includes the Manston processing centre, said it had been turned into a “refugee camp” by a “car crash” policy decision by the home secretary to suspend a search for hotel accommodation for new arrivals.

Nevertheless, hotel use is still high with the Home Office spending almost £7m a day on a mix of hotel accommodation and shared housing for asylum seekers and refugees.

Asylum seekers in hotels receive just over £1 a day, or £8.24 a week, to make personal purchases.

Last week, the Commons Home Affairs Committee was told that £5.6 million a day was being spent on hotels for people who have arrived in the UK and have submitted a claim, with an additional £1.2 million paid to house nearly 10,000 Afghan refugees who are still in bridging hotels a year after fleeing the Taliban takeover while long-term accommodation is sought in the UK.

The Home Office has only processed 4 per cent of the asylum claims from migrants who crossed the Channel last year. Of that number, 85 per cent were granted refugee status or other protection status.

Clearsprings, whose contract with the Home Office runs until 2029, said in it latest annual accounts report that “demand for accommodation has remained high” and is “expected to continue at a high level for the foreseeable future”.

Meanwhile, the directors of Mitie Care and Custody, which reported securing three new contracts in its latest accounts, wrote that they “expect the general level of activity to increase” in the year ahead.

Updated: November 09, 2022, 5:29 PM