Concerns raised – and improvements noted – during latest inspection of Manston holding centre

Manston processing centre Photo Louis McLaren

An unannounced, follow-up inspection of short-term holding facilities at Kent sites including Manston has raised concerns the centre would be unable to cope with increased numbers of people  if there is a rise in small boat Channel crossings.

The comments are made in a report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, published this week, following an inspection at the beginning of this year.

Increased numbers risks

Manston search area Photo HM Inspectorate of Prisons

Report author HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor said: “While Manston was able to function reasonably when it was fairly empty during our inspection, I was not assured that if numbers increase, as they are expected to in the summer, the site will be able to cope much better than it did during the autumn.

“This could lead to vulnerable children and families remaining on the site for too long, the risk of infectious disease spreading and an increased possibility of disorder. It must be an absolute priority for the Home Office to make sure that there are enough on-site staff and onward accommodation, so that migrants pass through Manston without delay.”

At the time of the inspection, the number of people passing through the site rarely exceeded 100 a day.

Medical services transformed

Inspectors did note that medical services at Manston had been transformed since their previous visit last year.

The report notes: “Health services had improved considerably with the introduction of senior emergency medicine doctors who provided on-site treatment from 8am to 8pm and an on-call service out of hours, working alongside skilled paramedics.

“Two companies were contracted to deliver health services. Medevent Medical Services provided paramedic services and had introduced the senior emergency medicine doctors to the service in October 2022. IPRS Aeromed delivered paramedic services and there was a paramedic on board when any of the five Border Force patrol vessels was in use.”

They added that the burden on local health services had considerably reduced when the doctors had been introduced and effective clinical pathways were developing, including good links with maternity services.


Holding space Photo HM Inspectorate of Prisons

Concerns raised included a lack of  leadership at Manston. With Border Force, Interforce, MTC, Mitie Care and Custody and GSA Security Solutions all providing services on site, inspectors say there were insufficient governance arrangements to make sure that work was coordinated.

Inspectors said there was also no real oversight of safeguarding processes, nor evidence that the most vulnerable were being consistently identified or provided with the right support.

Inspectors also raised concern about a lack of proper oversight of the use of force or violent incidents at the centre: inadequate data was available on when incidents had occurred, when force had been used, and whether it was justified by the circumstances.

Home Office data showed six incidents in the last six months, but information from Mitie and subsequent Home Office records suggested that this was incorrect.

Local records listed a considerable number of incidents, some of which had involved restraint techniques, handcuffs and, in at least one case, leg restraints.

Inspectors said Home Office could not supply accurate data on the number of violent incidents at Manston. They provided details of three incidents, but local records indicated many more, including fights, assaults, escapes, protests and general unrest.

Three container-type units were available to hold ‘non-compliant detainees’ separately from the general population at Manston. Previously people been held in cellular vehicles. Local records showed the vans had been used on at least 34 occasions to allow detainees to ‘calm down’ during the past six months.

Detention periods

Adult unit Photo HM Inspectorate of Prisons

The report also highlights that the recorded length of detention in all facilities was too long. In October 2022 the average was more than six days, and in recent months many children had been held beyond the 24-hour limit.

During the six months prior to the inspection, which was carried out between 30 January – 17 February, 17,562 detainees had been held in Manston, including 1,257 children. They were held for an average of 40 hours 43 minutes. There was limited hotel accommodation for family groups, and women and children were held for an average of 59 hours.

Inspectors said detainees had limited access to any form of communication with the outside world at all sites, including contacting their families after their journeys, and they were not made aware before leaving of where they were going and what would happen next.

Decent facilities

Family unit Photo HM Inspectorate of Prisons

The report did find aspects of the site were reasonably good, with people held for short periods of time in new marquees that included decent facilities, particularly for families.

The family marquee was in good condition and provided baby food, children’s toys and changing facilities. Inspectors said accommodation marquees in use at the time of the inspection were clean and well heated and afforded an adequate environment for stays of up to 24 hours, although there were no beds there were soft floor covering and seating and mattresses and bedding were readily available.

The report adds: “Showers and toilets were in good condition, but there were only six toilets and two showers in each marquee, which would not have been enough if the accommodation had been full. There were good stocks of towels and clean clothes, toiletries and female sanitary products.

Food supplies Photo HM Inspectorate of Prisons

“Managers had considerably improved the food provided to detainees. Kitchens in the marquees were clean and well equipped. New storage ovens had been installed to keep meals fresh, so that detainees could be offered a hot meal whenever they arrived. The range of meal options included Halal, vegan and special meals for detainees with food allergies. Detainees were offered breakfast and lunch packs and could help themselves to fruit, drinks and snacks throughout the day.”

Last October and November the centre became overwhelmed with some 4,000 people. It is designed to hold between 1,000 and 1,500 people. People were facing significantly longer periods in the centre due to the high numbers making small boat crossings. Issues included reported cases of diphtheria, scabies and norovirus.

The Home Office says it has taken  action to address some of the recommendations and looks forward to working with the Inspectorate on continuing that work.

It adds that staff are working to reduce detention times, improve facilities and provide specialist medical care.

Find the full report here


    • I have seen nothing in the photos that reflects nice and comfortable.

      What does a deterrent mean to you Real World? Especially after risking your life to get here.

      • Ah, but then you don’t come from where the immigrants do – and we’re always being told that they’re coming because their original dwelling places are so horrible, so they might have different standards

  1. It looks in far better condition than the Winter Gardens and former Motor Museum has been for the past 25 years! Priorities, eh?

    • Manston Detention Centre has nothing whatever to do with TDC. It is a Government facility…

  2. I am at a loss to understand why people are taking the trouble to travel through half a dozen other European countries and pay £3,000+ to cross the channel in a crowded open dinghy – only to complain about the standards of free accommodation they are offered when they get here.

    • Perhaps you’ve never been in fear of being blown-up, shot at, starved, tortured and executed etc..
      Everyone has a right to decent conditions whoever they are. Britain has always been conning people that it is a great country and world leading – part of its disgusting colonial legacy.

      • Behave Clare. If you don’t like it, then feel free to leave. I agree with John and everyone else you try to belittle. I am guessing that you’re vegan and vote Labour?

      • Your right Clare, I was a volunteer with Kent Refugee Support Group, Migrant Help line, and a prison visitor at the Dover Detainee Centre in Dover many years ago. Apart from having a grasp of English, many asylum seekers want to come here because they usually have family, or friends here. The countries bordering the Mediterranean take many more asylum seekers than Britain ever does, but another reason why people want to come here is because they don’t speak Italian, Greek, Spanish, or French, the countries boarding the Mediterranean! The EU has a policy of spreading asylum seekers from these counties amongst member states.

        Those people who complain about asylum seekers should try living in the countries they come from! They are trying to escape persecution, death, torture, fear, and they have no hope other than to escape their countries! How would anyone like to become a human bomb, because they have to, and if they don’t their family and relatives could be killed! There are a lot of sad, pathetic, British people who are full of self loathing, who should try and put themselves in the shoes of those less fortunate. Being anti asylum seekers/refugees is akin to being racist, and a bully. And yes, I was once an asylum seeker along with my mum, when the Germans blew up half our street, and our roof, except in those days they called us evacuees!

        • I’d much rather live in France or Germany than here. Unfortunately though, I can’t just turn up expecting to be re-housed.

          • There’s nothing stopping you * from moving to France or Germany, but you will probably need some help with the paperwork now we have left the EU when you could have gone to any EU country without a need to even show your passport! Its because we are no longer a member of the EU that asylum seekers can come here, before we left the EU they could have been returned to the first safe EU country they came to! Can I suggest a better pseudonym * you could try Pillock, or even moron!

          • Ok Dumpy, I’ll give it a try. Hopefully the Düsseldorf local council will provide me with a free house for 3 years while I get on my feet.

        • The issue isn’t about genuine refugees/ asylum seekers but that the majority are economic migrants, as ever those shouting at the extremes ( they’re all in fear of their lives and must stay on the one hand and the chuck em all out we’re full on the other) dominate the arguments and we end up with no sensible discussion or policy. The numbers of albanians coming over and the disproportionate number of albanians in the prison population show that there is a problem with our system. Or everyone needs to accept lower living standards and higher taxes if we are to accept everyone that wants to come here.

      • Yes – along with banning the slave trade (and enforcing said ban) ending Suttee and Thuggee, 50,000+ Km of railways in Indian subcontinent alone; maybe one day someone will make a movie where there’s a scene in which local people discuss ”what did the British ever do for us” – not everything about the British Empire was bad.

  3. Do the French blow people up & shoot them, I don’t even think they starve torture or execute them anymore, they are here because we are a soft country & run by Stupid people, this country is now getting like the third world country they are so called fleeing from.

  4. The French just beat the daylights out of them with large baton and put them into the many slum areas in France. Maybe you never watch the news when these areas go up in flames with riots. The French don’t want them and no matter what we pay the French they will never be able to stop them.. They come here because we have a good reputation on human rights and common decency. That is until you anti immigrant mob turned up. If you have trouble with them maybe you are in the wrong country. We have, until recently, always given shelter and decent human rights to any one seeking it. Until the right wing idiots took over. They have destroyed our reputation and don’t give a fig about human rights.

  5. The fact they have no means of communication with their families could be because they usually dispose of their mobiles and identification papers on reaching our shores. As we struggle to get a face to face doctor appointment after paying N.I.C. all our lives and the illegals have doctors on site , it seems weird that it is reported how bad conditions ruin their lives.

    • I imagine the medical facilities offered are on a parr with those at any of His Majesty’s prisons.

      • I have it on good authority from a number of friends and acquitances that these are excellent…

  6. Might be an idea to think twice before invading other countries and then leaving them in a worse state than they were before we poked our noses in. We are reaping what we have sown

  7. “Fear of being bomed”
    Well that’s a new one, last time I checked Albania was one of the safest countries in Europe and isn’t at war.

    The problem is, they get everything for free so why wouldn’t they come?
    This isn’t me digging them out because if I knew I could move to a nice, hot country and given a free house or flat, free pre paid credit cards i didnt have to pay back, free food, free health care etc.. I’d be gone.

    You can’t blame them for coming. You can only blame the government.

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