The former Fire Training and Development Centre at Manston will be used from this month for processing those that arrive in the country seeking asylum through ’illegal’ routes with the closure of Dover’s Tug Haven short-term immigration detention facilities.
In December the Home Office confirmed that part of the Ministry of Defence site at Manston will be used as a processing centre for asylum seekers from this month.
The new, secure site will 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 people will be brought there for initial screening and processing before going onto longer term accommodation. The site provides 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.
Tonight (January20) the Home Office has confirmed Tug Haven will no longer be used from the end of this month due to the tenancy for the site coming to an end. Individuals who arrive into Dover will go through initial checks at Dover port, then on to the site at Manston for further processing.
The former fire training centre at Manston closed in 2020 with operations transferred to Moreton-in-Marsh.
The move followed the agreement in July 2019 of a 12 year contract, worth £525 million, to outsource Ministry of Defence fire and rescue operations to private company Capita.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Government has a number of statutory duties for the welfare and wellbeing of migrants who come to the UK and which are completed on their arrival.
“The former Ministry of Defence site at Manston is ready to support onward processing of those arriving. We will continue to bring individuals rescued from the Channel into the most appropriate port, including Dover.”
In December Air Cadets and Army Reservists who were based at the site were given notice to move out. Those affected are 3rd Battalion the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment and 2433 Ramsgate & Manston Squadron – RAF Air Cadets.
North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale raised in Parliament the issue of the 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.
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.
He said phase two was for transfer and triage facilities from Tug Haven to Manston – which has now been confirmed – and phase 3 was an expansion of facilities to handle a still to be determined number of asylum seeking people.
It has been reported that temporary housing for people seeking asylum will be created on Ministry of Defence land across the UK.
The government says its Nationality and Borders Bill will make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK illegally and will introduce life sentences for those who facilitate illegal entry into the country. It will also strengthen the powers of Border Force to stop and redirect vessels, while introducing new powers to remove asylum seekers to have their claims processed outside the UK.