Death at Manston migrant facility may have been diphtheria, Home Office says

A bus thought to be carrying migrants arriving at Manston earlier this month. Credit: PA Images

A man’s death at the Manston migrant processing centre may have been caused by a diphtheria infection, the Home Office has said.

Initial tests at a hospital near the centre in Kent, which has struggled with overcrowding and outbreaks of disease, came back negative – but a follow-up PCR test was positive.

The result indicates that “diphtheria may be the cause of the illness”, a statement said.

The man in question died in hospital on November 19 after being believed to have entered the UK on a small boat seven days earlier.

A Government spokeswoman said: “Our thoughts remain with the family of the man who has died and all those affected by this loss.

"Initial test results processed by a local hospital for an infectious disease were negative, but a follow-up PCR test was positive, indicating that diphtheria may be the cause of the illness.

"The Coroner will conclude in due course.“

Government sources have suggested that the facility has been emptied. Credit: PA

"We take the safety and welfare of those in our care extremely seriously and are taking all of the necessary steps following these results.

“We are offering diphtheria vaccinations to people at Manston, which has 24/7 health facilities and trained medical staff.”

However, the Home Office had initially said there was “no evidence at this stage to suggest that this tragic death was caused by an infectious disease”, with the man being taken ill a day before dying.

At one point, as many as 4,000 people were being detained at the site, which is designed to hold just 1,600, but on Tuesday Government sources said the site had been emptied.

Ahead of the man’s death, the UK Health Security Agency identified 39 diphtheria cases in asylum seekers in England in 2022, as of November 10, and the health authority warned that accommodation settings should be considered “high-risk for infectious diseases”.

The Home Secretary has come under fire for her handling of the situation. Credit: PA

The Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been coming under criticism for the dire conditions in Manston, and for failing to slow the perilous crossings of the English Channel by people in small boats.

This week she admitted the Government has “failed to control our borders” but blamed desperate migrants and people smugglers for the overcrowding in Manston.

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