Manston asylum seekers ‘abandoned’ at London bus station

Hundreds believed to have been moved from processing centre before alternative accommodation found

People thought to be migrants at the Manston processing centre. PA
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Asylum seekers from the overcrowded processing centre at Manston were left at London’s Victoria coach station without accommodation, say charity workers.

They were among hundreds thought to have been moved from the disused airfield site near Ramsgate on England's south coast amid concerns it had become dangerously full. The number of migrants who have crossed the English Channel in small boats this year is approaching 40,000.

About 30 migrants from Manston were dropped off in London on Tuesday, many with nowhere to go.

Some had family or friends they were able to contact to stay with, but 11 were left with no accommodation and were helped by a charity worker.

Volunteers from the Under One Sky homelessness charity provided the group with food and clothes, saying many were in flip-flops and without winter coats.

“They were stressed, disturbed and completely disoriented,” volunteer Danial Abbas said. “They were also very hungry.”

On Thursday, he told BBC Radio 4: “They were turning to anyone on the streets. We were there at the right time to provide care and love and compassion.

“They had been at Manston. There were 11 with nowhere to go, initially the group was closer to 30 with family. They were told they were being taken to a hotel in central London.”

He said the migrants had been disturbed by conditions at Manston, with some sleeping on concrete. “They had blisters on their hands and feet, didn’t have suitable footwear. One couldn’t sit down or lie down.”

He said they told him they had crossed the English Channel in small boats three weeks ago and had come from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

He said they had been told they were being taken to a hotel before their surprise drop off.

“Their account couldn’t explain the situation. British Transport Police said it’s been happening since Saturday.”

He said they had now been taken to a hotel in Norwich.

A British Transport Police spokesman said staff responded to reports of asylum seekers looking for assistance at Victoria Station at 10.33pm on Tuesday.

“Officers engaged and liaised with charity partners, rail staff and government colleagues to help them find accommodation for the evening,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, an Albanian man was seen trying to stop a coach carrying asylum seekers from leaving Manston after seeing a picture in UK media of his nephew peering through the wire fencing at the centre.

He travelled from Oxford to try to find his family and was seen pointing at a bus while saying: “That's my brother.”

Migrants at immigration processing centre in Manston - in pictures

On Wednesday, a young girl threw a note over the wall of the site that described conditions inside and claimed that sick and pregnant people were being held there.

Climate minister Graham Stuart conceded on Thursday that the centre is not operating legally.

Asked whether he was happy that asylum seekers were being detained illegally, he told Sky News: “Obviously not. None of us are comfortable with it. We want it tackled, we want to get a grip, that’s exactly what the Home Secretary is focused on.”

He sought to blame an “unacceptable surge” in small boat crossings for the problem, adding that the “system is struggling to cope”.

“It is not where we want it to be right now and we are simply looking to balance that out, thousands more hotel rooms have been sorted out but it’s unacceptable to the British people and we need to do more to tackle the traffickers in what is an unprecedented surge in illegal immigration,” he added. Suella Braverman is under mounting pressure over handling of the migrant crisis as the Government faces potential legal action over an asylum centre with conditions branded “dire” by senior MPs.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick estimated that about 3,500 people remained at the Manston facility in Kent on Wednesday night — despite its maximum capacity of 1,600 — as Ms Braverman faced questions over what will be done to address overcrowding at the site, as well as small boat crossings in general.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman visited Dover on Thursday to inspect the scene of a petrol bomb attack on Sunday. Witnesses said she spent about half an hour at the facility – where migrants are first taken after arriving on the south coast – during which time she was shown around by Border Force staff and briefly boarded a docked patrol vessel.

She then travelled to Manston to speak with staff and receive an update on the situation on the ground, Downing Street said.

It comes as the prime minister of Albania accused Britain of becoming like a “madhouse” with a culture of “finding scapegoats” during a migration crisis where “failed policies” are to blame.

Edi Rama hit out at Ms Braverman’s “crazy” choice of language in a combative Commons debate this week, where she claimed there was an “invasion on our southern coast”.

The government is currently procuring hotels to relieve pressure at Manston, but Mr Jenrick said he suspected it would take roughly seven days for numbers to drop to an “acceptable level”.

The situation had been branded a “breach of humane conditions”, with about 4,000 people thought to have been held at the site.

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.

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Updated: November 23, 2022, 6:59 AM