Photos by Frank Leppard
Toys were handed to staff to be given to children held at Manston asylum processing centre last night (November 2) during a demonstration by protestors calling for the site to be shut down.
Members of Thanet Left, Labour and Green parties, SOAS Detention Support, Kent Anti Racism Network and residents attended the rally to show support for the people at the centre.
They were watched by two young men from Afghanistan who said they had been in Manston centre for 25 days and then were sent to Victoria Station but had returned because they didn’t know where to go and do not speak English. The pair, who were later joined by a third man, said they wanted to go back in the centre and had been waiting outside all day. They did not have winter clothes and were wearing flip flops.
The BBC reports about 40 people removed from Manston on Tuesday were taken to Victoria station so they could stay with friends and family in the capital but 11 of them had nowhere to go.
The Home Office told the BBC the group had told officials they had a place to stay. Alternative accommodation was eventually found, it is reported.
Thanet Left campaigners have branded the centre a “concentration camp.”
Thanet councillor Candy Gregory, who was among protesters, said: “This demonstrates people care about the terrible things that have been happening in Manston and we will not accept what the Home Office is doing in our name.”
Norman Thomas of the Thanet Left group, which called the vigil, said: “The migrant processing unit in Manston airport was supposed to hold 1000 people on a temporary basis — for just a day. It has been used to detain around 4000 people and many of them for weeks.
“For legal reasons Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been unable to achieve her dream of sending refugees to Rwanda, so it seems she has decided to create a hell-hole for them here in Kent. Braverman must be called to account for what she has done here. We challenge her to come here on Sunday to explain herself.”
Mr Thomas highlighted conditions at the site, adding: “There’ve been cases of norovirus, scabies, coronavirus and, worst of all, diphtheria. Security staff simply can’t cope with what’s happening. This is disgraceful and shameful.”
Campaigners are vowing to keep up their pressure until the camp is closed.
Councillor Gregory said: “We managed to get toys into the camp for the children of the refugees and we stayed for a long time outside the gates chanting ‘Refugees are welcome here.’ I hope the people inside heard us — it’s so important they know that they have support from the outside world. We will not give up until this terrible place is shut down.”
Several hundred people have been moved out of Manston this week after large numbers of boat crossings and a petrol bomb attack at the Dover centre meant some 4000 people were being held at Manston.
North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale says numbers at Manston are expected to be back to manageable levels by the weekend and disputes claims of poor conditions, saying marquees are substantial and heated with people having roll out mats to sleep on and clean, dry clothes given out to new arrivals as well as good medical facilities for those needing care.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has told Sky News that a judicial review is being brought against government in the case of Manston, where there has been the overcrowding and people have been detained for up to a month which is not legally compliant.
The Home Office says: “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.”
Home Secretary Suella Braverman is due to visit Manston centre and Dover today (November 3).
Another demonstration will be held in support of the refugees outside Manston at 2pm this Sunday, 6 November.