Home Secretary Suella Braverman visits Manston and Dover asylum facilities

Home Secretary Suella Braverman

Under fire Home Secretary Suella Braverman is in Kent today (November 3) visiting the Western Jetfoil immigration facility in Dover and the Manston processing centre.

Residents in the village report seeing the arrival of a Chinook helicopter at the Polar Helicopters site and numerous police officers around 20 minutes ago.

The Home Secretary is not taking questions from the media during the visit.

Hundreds of people have this week been moved out of Manston processing centre to hotels or immigration detention facilities following an outcry over overcrowding.

Photo Frank Leppard

The centre had reached some 4000 people being held on Sunday despite only having capacity for up to 1,600, partly due to 1,458 people detected making small boat Channel crossings over the weekend and a petrol bomb attack at the Dover migration site meaning some 700 people had to be moved immediately to Manston.

Issues raised this month include reported cases of diphtheria – said to be 4 in a recent Home Affairs Committee hearing – scabies and norovirus.

Photo Louis McLaren

The Home Affairs Committee was also told told of families who had been at the centre for between two weeks and a month.

This issue had also been raised by Andy Baxter of the Prison Officers Association as opening up legal implications due to stays stretching far beyond the mandated 24 hours for processing.

He said: “The majority of people on site are being held without warrant, they are simply being detained for making an ‘illegal’ crossing. There are huge potential legal implications for the government and the British taxpayer.”

Photo Swift Aerial Photography

Issues of untrained staff undertaking duties have also been raised.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has told Sky News that a judicial review is being brought against government in the case of Manston, where operations are “not legally compliant” due to the length of time some people have been held there.

Recorded small boat Channel crossings show just under 40,000 arriving in the UK so far this year. In 2021, it was 28,526 people and in 2020 it was 8,404.

The processing centre at MoD Manston, on the site of the former fire training school, was complete by January and operational by February this year.

The Home Office planned for 1,000 to 1,600 people passing through each day and checks to be completed in 24 hours.

Members of SOAS Detainee Support say the site is a ‘concentration camp’ (Image SOAS)

The cost of people seeking asylum being housed in hotels is currently £5.6m per day. This does not include accommodation for Afghan families which is an additional £1.2m per day, the Home Affairs Committee was told.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The number of people arriving in the UK via small boats has reached record levels and continues to put our asylum system under incredible pressure.

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

“We urge anyone who is thinking about leaving a safe country and risk their lives at the hands of vile people smugglers to seriously reconsider.

“Despite what they have been told, they will not be allowed to start a new life here.”

Photo Frank Leppard

Campaigners who protested outside the centre last night say the conditions are inhumane and it needs to be shut. A further protest will be held this Sunday at 2pm.