Home Office minister criticises 'cheek' of complaints from migrants
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The government has appeared to distance itself from comments made by a Home Office minister who criticised the "cheek" of complaints about the conditions in migrant processing centres from people arriving "illegally" in the country .
Migrants "deserve to be treated with compassion and respect," Downing Street said after Chris Philp made the comment, amid overcrowding chaos at the Manston holding centre in Kent.
At one point as many as 4,000 people were being detained for weeks in a site intended to hold 1,600 for a matter of days.
Mr Philp had earlier told Times Radio: "If people choose to enter a country illegally, and unnecessarily, it is a bit, you know, it’s a bit of a cheek to then start complaining about the conditions when you’ve illegally entered a country without necessity."
But when asked if Mr Philp was speaking for the government, Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman said: "I haven’t spoken to the prime minister about that specifically.
"Certainly it is true that Home Office border force officials and many others are working hard to provide safe, secure accommodation for those individuals that come via these routes.
"As we’ve been clear, those individuals deserve to be treated with compassion and respect.
"Obviously the current approach is not working and it is placing huge pressures – both in terms of on the government and on the local area – and that is presenting significant challenges, which is why we continue to work both with French colleagues and more broadly to try and resolve this issue."
Mr Philp, the policing minister, also described the Kent centre as legally compliant days after immigration minister Robert Jenrick suggested it was not.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said Mr Philp’s comments “reveal a shocking and callous complacency over the disaster unfolding at Manston.”
“It is unbelievable that as we hear reports of sexual assaults, disease, and chronic overcrowding, his response is to accuse those who complain of ‘cheek’.”
On Thursday, government minister Graham Stuart conceded Manston was not operating legally and “none of us are comfortable with it”, but sought to blame an “unacceptable surge” in small boat crossings for the problem, adding that the “system is struggling to cope”.
This followed on from similar suggestions from immigration minister Robert Jenrick earlier in the week.
But on Friday, policing minister Mr Philp insisted the opposite, telling Sky News: “I don’t accept the premise that it is not legally compliant today, a lot of change has been made even in the last few days since you spoke to Robert,” adding that “significant improvements” have been made.
Downing Street said the number of people at Manston has fallen to 2,600, with 1,200 taken off the site within the last four days.
MP for North Thanet Sir Roger Gale said the aim is to reduce the number to 1,500 by the end of the day, which would bring it under its maximum capacity of 1,600.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Secretary has taken urgent decisions to alleviate issues at Manston using all the legal powers available and sourcing alternative accommodation.
“The welfare of those in our care is of the utmost importance and asylum seekers are only released from Manston when they have assured us that they have accommodation to go to – to suggest otherwise is wrong and misleading.”
Council calls for 'humane and organised' response to immigration crisis
The row came after a group of refugees from Manston were left at Victoria station in central London on Tuesday without accommodation, appropriate clothing or money.
Westminster City Council said its rough sleeping service had offered hotel spaces to 11 of these people, and seven had taken up the offer.
On Friday the council said it was trying to get the group to Lunar House in Croydon to be assessed by Home Office officials.
The leader of the local authority, Adam Hug, said the increasing number of refugees in Westminster hotels was putting pressure on local medical services, and called for a “humane and organised” response to the immigration crisis.
Mr Hug said: “The chaos that is engulfing the arrival centre at Manston is now impacting on councils across the country.
“It is not acceptable that people seeking asylum in the UK are effectively dumped at a coach station and left to fend for themselves, we need a more humane and frankly better organised response.”
“The issue is that the Home Office seems to have descended into panic with no clear picture of where people are going,” he added.
“The government needs to get a grip of this urgently, and we would like to be part of the solution.”
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