Channel migrants processing centre at Manston 'struggling to cope'

Channel migrants are being held for up to a week in a new processing centre which is "struggling" to cope with the influx of people, a union which represents Border Force officers warned Credit: PA

Channel migrants are being held for up to a week in a new processing centre in Kent which is "struggling" to cope with the influx of people, a union which represents Border Force officers warned.

The POA union said the facilities at the Manston immigration short-term holding facility are inadequate, highlighting rising "tensions" which have already seen the police called and the facility run out of food and water - a claim the Home Office has denied.

Opened by the Home Office in January 2022, the centre is located at the former Defence Fire Training and Development Centre in Thanet.

The union says the large number of people arriving during September means that the target of holding people at the Manston site for 24 to 48 hours is "purely aspirational", with people staying at the facility for up to a week.

Analysis of government figures shows 7,961 people arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel in September.

Andy Baxter from the Prison Officers Association said: "Our members are raising concerns with us around some health and safety issues, around some decency issues. The problem at Manston is that the numbers going through are far too high and it's not being used for the purpose it was originally built for.

"People's frustration about the length of time they are being there is starting to boil over. The release valve is the ability to move people onto forward accommodation. That's not happening, it seems to us that government haven't got a plan on how to deal with the volume of people.

"The staff on the ground, both Home Office, Border Force and contractors working on site are doing a sterling job trying to do the best they can to maintain decency and level of control but it's getting to the point now where if it keeps going as it is, it's not sustainable and it could be a danger to the people working there.

A Home Office Spokesperson said the continued rise in small boat crossings is causing an 'unprecedented' strain on their asylum system Credit: PA News

"We need to do everything we can to stop people putting their lives at risk making these crossings.

"These sort of deals between political leaders take a long time to put in place. I think what we should be looking at is some sort of safe passage so that people don't have to make the trip and we can better point the resources, undermining the work of the criminal gangs that are putting people's lives at risk.

"We need to find somewhere to get people moved on to relieve the pressure. Let's get the place cleaned and get it back to what it should be. There doesn't seem to be a plan from the government.

"The plan at present is that they've got their fingers crossed, they're hoping for some inclement weather and some rough seas. That's not a plan, we need some leadership."

  • Andy Baxter, Prison Officer's Association

Kent Police confirmed they had been called to the immigration centre twice in the last two weeks.

A spokesman for Kent Police said: "We attended a site in Manston Road, Manston, at around 11.55pm on September 28 to assist the Home Office following a report a small group of people were being abusive. No arrests were made.

They added: "Kent Police attended a site in Manston Road, Manston at 8.10pm on October 2 to assist the Home Office following a report a man had thrown a plastic bottle at another man.

"A suspect was arrested on suspicion of assault and was later released on bail while enquiries continue."

The Home Office said it was "untrue" to suggest there had been shortages of food and water at the site, insisting migrants were offered hot food, fresh clothing, toilet facilities, sanitary packs and medical care.

A spokesperson added:  "The continued rise in dangerous small boat crossings is causing an unprecedented strain on our asylum system.

"Manston is resourced and equipped to process migrants securely and we will provide alternative accommodation as soon as possible.

"Despite the lies they have been sold by people smugglers, those entering the UK illegally via the Channel will not be allowed to start a new life here. These individuals will be in scope to be relocated to Rwanda under our Migration and Economic Development Partnership.