Home Office must ‘get a handle’ on Manston asylum centre, watchdog says | home office
Conditions at a controversial center for asylum seekers have “significantly deteriorated” in the past three months, a watchdog has warned, urging the Home Office to “get the escalating problems under control”.
Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said an inspection of the Manston short-term detention center in July revealed early signs of risks, including the detention of asylum seekers for far longer than was appropriate for the site.
Manston is at the heart of an overcrowding scandal with Home Secretary Suella Braverman under pressure over reports she ignored legal advice that the government was holding asylum seekers at the site for long periods of time. periods illegally.
The Sunday Times reported that Braverman was ordered to transfer asylum seekers from Manston to hotels to ease the pressure, but she refused.
In her report released on Tuesday, Taylor revealed that even in July, asylum seekers were “crammed” into a single facility and exhausted inmates slept on mats and couldn’t get to the fresh air despite long stays.
Taylor said while some improvements were seen in July at Manston and other facilities, risks remained.
“When I visited Manston in September some of these risks had started to materialize and I met inmates who had been held for more than four days in a facility which was not designed for overnight stays and in which there was no access to the open air. ,” he said.
“I was also concerned that there were still no mobile phones available, which meant that many detainees, some of whom were very young, had not been able to contact their families.
“Recent intelligence from a number of credible sources, including the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, Independent Review Boards and Staff Associations, suggests that the current situation at Manston has deteriorated. considerably deteriorated since our July inspection.
“We are hearing that detainees are now being held in greater numbers and for much longer periods of time in cramped and uncomfortable conditions, often supervised by staff who have not been properly trained.
“Because of these concerns, the Inspectorate anticipates a swift return to Manston and expects to see substantial improvements. In the meantime, the Home Office and its contractors must contain and act on the findings urgently. of this report to ensure that all detainees are held in safe, decent and humane conditions.
Taylor’s report says there have been “significant improvements” since inspections of short-term detention facilities in early 2020, which revealed hundreds of cold, wet people were forced to spend hours in cramped containers on a “construction site strewn with rubble”.
But concerns have been raised in the report with Manston and other Western Jet Foil and Lydd Airport facilities.
Manston, on a disused airfield site near Ramsgate in Kent, is meant to be a short-term detention center where immigration documents are issued and some people begin the asylum screening process. They are only supposed to stay for a maximum of 24 hours. Although there is food, water, showers and toilets, the prison watchdog said there were no beds or access to fresh air and to exercise.
The report found that ‘some aspects of governance were weak, particularly in protection and health care’, with some asylum seekers denied access to mobile phones and others ‘inexplicably’ not allowed close the toilet doors completely.
He said the length of detention was far too long, often longer than 24 hours and sometimes far longer than that. The longest recorded detention of a child was 48 hours, which the inspection said was “unacceptable”.
Home Office data showed that in the three months to June 2022, 4,161 people passed through Manston and 636 were detained for more than 24 hours. The longest period of detention at Manston was over 70 hours.
“It was particularly disappointing once again to see exhausted inmates forced to sleep on floor mats between rows of seats or on wooden benches,” the report said, later adding: “Inmates could not get out for some fresh air, no matter how long they’ve been detained.”
The inspection also revealed that inmates were searched too often and not always with sufficient sensitivity by Home Office staff, while inmates in the control building were not allowed to use the toilets in private. . Concerns have been raised about respect during searches.
“Detainees were then searched in plain sight of others, including scrub searches of women and children,” the report said.
“Some of the staff were abrupt and impatient, including with the children. We observed a Border Force personnel pulling a young child by the arm without any explanation to begin the search by rubbing. The parent of another young child was instructed by gestures to remove the child’s earrings despite the child’s pain and distress as the parent struggled to do so.
Last week, another watchdog, Chief Borders and Immigration Inspector David Neal, said during a visit to Manston he had met families who had been at the facility for over one month.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We welcome the report’s finding that significant improvements have been made to the infrastructure and processes in place to accommodate record numbers of people arriving illegally in the Kingdom. United via small boats.
“Because of these figures, our asylum system has been put to the test, but we recognize that there is still a long way to go to provide alternative accommodation for people arriving in the UK. We continue to work hard to resolve current pressures in Manston as an urgent priority.
“Manston remains resourced and equipped to process migrants safely, and we will provide alternative accommodation as soon as possible.”