Labour parliamentary candidate for East Thanet Polly Billington: Thanet paying the price of Tory immigration chaos 

Polly Billington has been selected to represent Labour at the next General Election Photo Julian Newick

The fiasco playing out in Westminster, as the Tories fight over how to tackle the consequences of their own failed immigration policies, demonstrates that they aren’t fit to run the country. And it has now emerged their plans to deal with this issue will have a direct impact on people in Thanet.

The government is quietly planning to expand the site at Manston to hold more people for longer and it appears from reports, not denied by the government, that it will be used to house people awaiting deportation to Rwanda.

There is no doubt our immigration system is broken. Whether you are outraged by hotel bookings being cancelled because of the government’s decision to house people there, or appalled by the idea of families being squeezed into unsuitable accommodation for months at a time and worried about the risks of trafficking of unaccompanied children, we can all agree something has to change. After 13 years in charge the Tories are not the ones to do it.

What happens at the Manston site itself illustrates the failures. Last year a man died of diphtheria. A pregnant woman suffered a miscarriage there after being separated from her husband and made to care for her five children alone. People were meant to stay less than 24 hours and yet were there for days, sleeping on the floor because gym mats were considered a fire risk. Failure to process people leaves families in distress and the country footing a huge bill. That’s why Labour has pledged to speed up the process of applications, saving millions of taxpayers’ money currently spent on hotels.

Let’s remember who profits from this awful trade of small boat crossings: criminal gangs charging people who have no other way to enter the UK, including Afghan people who helped us in the war there and people fleeing conflict in Syria.

Labour would crack down on those criminal gangs by establishing a special unit in the national crime agency to target them specifically. And the least we can do – but this government is failing at – is work with our neighbours like France to manage the crisis. It will also be easier to sort out the difference between those who need to be here and those that don’t, if we have safe routes for those fleeing conflict. Albanian men can apply for a visa from home but a proper functioning system would then decide if we need them here. Most, if not all of them, would be refused.

Britain has a proud history of being a global force for good, including establishing important international institutions after the Second World War. Helping to stop the causes that drive people to the desperation of small boats is part of that role. A Labour government would ensure the UK does all it can to stop wars, conflicts and climate change that drive so much of this migrant traffic.

What we experience here in Thanet is a failure by the government to address the challenges of our changing world, with our community living with the consequences. The government’s costly and unworkable plan to deport people to Rwanda could end up with more people at Manston as they are housed there before being flown out. The government shifts the problem, with costs stacking up, rather than tackle it.

We are better than this as a country and as a community. Our strengths include the ability to provide security and certainty for people born here and drawn here. People in Thanet are fed up with the failures of this government when it comes to immigration and their failures to protect either our borders or our values. We deserve better.


  1. Polly has failed to mention the enormous local employment potential of having a migrant/deportation camp in Thanet. Or doesn’t she care (or even know) that unemployment is so bad locally that people are being forced to use food banks?


    • I thought Manston Airport was going to turn everything around? All those jobs TF promised in 1998 & never delivered on, that he is promising again now.

        • Yes, worked as well as the Rwanda scheme-240 million with nobody deported,they can only take a couple of hundred & will be sending us their refugees in return & all at far greater cost to the UK taxpayer, the floating Legionaries barge that holds less than often arrive on one summer day, the compensation having to be paid to the illegally arrested & deported people that had been here for decades paying taxes & fully integrated Windrush fiasco etc.

      • Barking at the wrong tree SUSPENDED blah blah blah… The immigration site is still MoD owned and nothing to do with with RSP or the civilian airfield.
        Stop stirring the poo, get your facts right.

    • Think you will find the Tories have taken it to the highest levels on record the last nearly 14 years. In case you haven’t been watching the Tories have made it it a total disaster-whichever side of the fence you sit on.

      • Blair started all of this by the invasion of this country with the shengin agreement freedom of movement carried on with brown and Starmer now is going against voters by underhanded moves to get us back in the club thats almost bankrupt other EU countries want out British born cant get a home.doctors appointments. dental treatment,and places at schools as they are taken up by outsiders by the way before comments made I am no racist it’s common sense and true those who love the EU go and live there and see how welcome they make you no chance.

  2. Oh blast,I wish local politicians would not say these things,as all it does is encourage the usual odd squad.
    Look,the figures differ, depending on various sources but between 75% and 90% of ‘illegal’ migrants would be granted asylum.
    The majority are now hailing from Afghanistan where we have no embassy to process asylum claims or Iran etc.The government did a deal over the Albanians so some progress was made.
    Rather than waste £300m in sending people to a country like Rwanda which has its own problems,set up proper routes so that asylum seekers can be quickly and fairly assessed.This is what Baroness Warsi is suggesting and she is not a raving pinko (sorry PC).
    Thanet ought to be transitioning from low educational attainment and low aspiration employment and the land at Manston ought to produce a dividend for Thanet and not just for mysterious ‘investors’.
    I can see that there are people who know about transitioning,so this will not be a surprise.
    We messed up in Afghanistan big time,so maybe we should think on.
    As it is the illegals are around 10% of all migration and precious few of them will end up in Rwanda,even if it gets off the ground.
    Where are we going to get sufficient bods to run adult social care, unless we recruit from overseas or be prepared to fund it better.
    Finally, it’s Christmas so please cut down on the mysogny.

    • “Work with France to manage the crisis”?,That has just got to be one of the most stupid comments ever spouted concerning the illegal Channel invasion. Does Ms Billington not comprehend that the French authorities’ failure to stop the illegals leaving their shores in the first place – despite us bunging them countless millions of pounds- is largely responsible for the crisis. Time she did her homework.

      • The French have offered land to build a reception centre to process claims.
        Would stop the boats overnight.
        Let’s face it their face don’t fit your racist beliefs.
        The French take in many more thousands than ever want to come to the UK but then the rightwing press don’t mention that
        And when they get here they work harder than the indigenous population

        • No it wouldn’t, as those rejected (i.e. most of them) would still try to get over to Kent’s sunny shorelines.

          Anyway, I’d rather give employment to locals! Wouldn’t you?

  3. Craig is not local,and at long last ‘the people’ are coming round to thinking that closer alignment with Europe and there by France, is worth a try.The lesson I take from the Ukraine war is that we are better off cooperating.I can see the jingos here in Thanet disagree, well that’s their privilege. The flow of history is now in favour of working together,the policy of splendid isolation is now as dead as a Dodo.

    • The French are closing their borders to other countries, and deporting undesirables. So yeah, I’m with the French (great people btw, actually proud of their own culture, language and traditions).

  4. Saying I believe in fairies does not mean they actually exist,so when you make extraordinary claims, you require extraordinary evidence to sustain those claims.

  5. There’s only one thing more pitiful than Tories. That one thing is Labour. Labour cannot seem to say fifty or less words without mentioning the Tories. For the love of God, stop the blame game and show some actual leadership and vision if you want your miserable backsides elected.

  6. I’m packing in for the evening so, considering the subject matter of this column, commenting will be turned off until tomorrow

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