North Thanet MP slams Home Office plan to hold people seeking asylum in “marquees” during winter at Manston

Sir Roger Gale

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale has raised in Parliament the issue of an asylum seeker processing centre being established at Manston branding it a ‘kneejerk reaction’ railroaded through without any consultation with Thanet MPs, Thanet council or Kent County Council.

On Tuesday the Home Office confirmed that part of the Ministry of Defence site at Manston will be used as a processing centre for asylum seekers by January 2022.

The new, secure site will be able to hold people for up to five days as security and identity checks are completed.

Short term initial accommodation will be provided for people during their time on the Manston site.

The Home Office says there should be minimal implications for those living near Manston, as people will be brought there for initial screening and processing before going onto longer term accommodation. They said the site will provide all the amenities and services needed for a short term stay.

People who travel to the UK through safe and legal routes – such as the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy or Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme – will not be taken to Manston.


Speaking yesterday (December 15) MP Sir Roger said the proposed site at the former fire training and defence centre was “inappropriate” and would have “unfortunate and undesirable consequences for the communities and the people affected and the government.”

He also said there were phase 2 and phase 3 proposals that the Home Office has not discussed or consulted on with Thanet’s MPs and authorities.

Sir Roger said: “The current dog whistle proposal  appears to transfer arrivals from Tug Haven (short-term reception centre at Dover Western Docks.) to Manston barracks where they will be accommodated, in the middle of winter, in marquees and detained securely while processed.

“There’s no indication how the site will accommodate these human beings, will be made secure or what facilities will be made available other than the statutory onsite medical facilities.

“These are real people who have been subjected to great miseries.”

‘Lack of consultation’

Sir Roger also slammed Home Office officials for a lack of consultation, saying he only became aware of the proposal after the Wing Commander of the 2433 Ramsgate & Manston Squadron – RAF Air Cadets emailed him on December 10 to say the unit had been ordered to move out by December 15.

The MP said Thanet and Kent councils were not notified until December 13 and that Kent’s senior health official has still not been formally advised of the plan for the screening and processing centre.

He added: “Neither were proposals for phase two transfer and triage facilities from Trug Haven to Manston discussed and neither was a further proposal fora phase 3 expansion of facilities to handle a still to be determined number of migrants for an unspecified length of time, consulted on.”

The MP said he had requested on December 14 that work on the project be stopped in order to carry out consultation but this had been ignored an officials were “still blundering on.”

Sir Roger added that he had identified at least one “clean, comfortable and secure operational vessel that can, if commissioned, meet the immediate and longer term need,” and he had been advised others were available.

He requested that the Minister instruct officials to put the “unacceptable and unworkable” Manston proposal on hold and look for other viable options.

The proposal relates to MoD owned property which is not part of the airport site. It follows a report by the HM Inspector of Prisons that found the Tug Haven site to be unsuitable.

Tug Haven report

The report, which came after an unannounced inspection in September 2020, said: “The area resembled a building site. Detainees almost always arrived wet and cold, but then often had to spend hours in the open air or in cramped containers, before moving to another detention environment.

“Basic supplies, including dry clothing, ran out during the inspection and some detainees were placed on escort vehicles in wet clothes. Despite the poor conditions, the detainees we interviewed were almost all very positive about the way individual staff at Tug Haven treated them.”

This month it was announced that the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has commenced an inspection of the initial processing of people arriving via small boats at Tug Haven.

The inspection will focus on the security checks performed to protect the border, and the identification and safeguarding of vulnerable people. The inspection team anticipate reporting to the Home Secretary by February.

County councillor Karen Constantine said earlier this week that she will be liaising with KCC and others to ensure the new site at Manston is safe, welcoming and provides everything that is required. She will also be requesting a site project plan and a visit to ensure all needs have been taken fully into account

2433 Ramsgate & Manston Squadron – RAF Air Cadets have been offered use of a building by the control tower on the Manston airport Northern Grass site which is owned by RiverOak Strategic Partners. However, it is not yet clear whether this has been accepted.