Overcrowded UK asylum processing centre expected to be back within capacity in days

Number of migrants held at Manston reached 4,000, despite it being designed to house a maximum of 1,600

People thought to be migrants walk inside the Manston immigration short-term holding facility. AP
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An overcrowded asylum processing centre where conditions were described as “wretched” should be back within capacity in days, a senior cabinet minister has said.

The number of people being housed at the already overcrowded facility at Manston in Kent soared following a petrol bomb attack on an immigration border force facility in Dover.

At one stage, the number of migrants being held at Manston reached 4,000, despite it only being designed to house a maximum of 1,600 people for 24 hours.

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

Officials have moved hundreds of people out of the centre in the past week.

Oliver Dowden, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and the second highest ranking minister in cabinet, said there were “far too many people” being held at Manston.

“At one stage there were up to 4,000 people there,” he told the Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show.

“We continue to make good progress removing people from that facility. The latest numbers we have is that there is about 1,800.

“So we are confident that by next week we will be back within capacity. The situation is being dealt with.”

Migrants at immigration processing centre in Manston — in pictures

An HM Inspectorate of Prisons inspection this summer found some migrants were not allowed access to mobile phones to let their families know they were safe, and “in some parts of the site they were, inexplicably, not even allowed to close toilet doors fully”.

Earlier this week, asylum seekers who were being housed at Manston facility were left at London’s Victoria coach station without accommodation on two separate occasions, reports said.

And a boy, 13, was allegedly assaulted by a man in his 30s while staying at a hotel housing refugees.

Officials say a substantial rise in the number of Albanian migrants crossing the Channel has contributed to the crisis in the UK’s asylum system.

According to the Home Office, about 10,000 adult men from Albania have travelled to the UK this year in small boats.

The number represents up to 2 per cent of all men aged between 20 and 40 in the southern European country.

More than 38,000 asylum seekers have crossed the Channel so far this year.

Mr Dowden said the situation was “totally deplorable”.

“It’s dangerous for the people concerned. It enriches gangs, and it’s people going from one safe country, France, to another safe country, the United Kingdom,” he said.

“I do not dispute for a second that this situation has gone too far and why people are angry about it. Now you have seen efforts from the last government to address it.

“Clearly we need to do more on this. And I can tell you the prime minister is totally seized of this to make sure we work through each aspect of this and make sure we start to control these numbers.”

He said it would not be easy and it will not be solved overnight.

“But it is legitimate for people to expect us to grip this and we will,” said Mr Dowden.

The UK will aim to revive the British Bill of Rights as a weapon in its arsenal to tackle the record number of migrants landing on England’s south coast, deputy prime minister Dominic Raab has said.

Mr Raab, who is also justice secretary, said the legislation would give the UK courts supremacy over the European Court of Human Rights which was responsible for blocking the first deportation flights to Rwanda.

Updated: November 06, 2022, 12:14 PM