An inspection report has been published by HM Inspectorate of Prisons concerning the conditions in Manston in Kent, a short-term processing facility for refugees.
The inspection, carried out in July, is extremely concerning, with the Prison Officers Association describing the situation last week as a ‘humanitarian crisis’. The non-residential centre is designed to hold immigration detainees for a maximum of 24 hours while their initial immigration paperwork is processed. Commenting on the report, Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons confirmed that people had been ‘held for more than four days in a facility that was not designed for overnight stays.’
Manston is already at the centre of an overcrowding controversy reported by The Sunday Times in which it was said that the home secretary, Suella Braverman ignored legal advice to address this problem and transfer detainees to hotels. Braverman denied that she ignored this guidance.
The report stated that the facility is over capacity and detainees are being held overnight in spaces with no beds. Staffing problems led to a substantial amount of available space being rendered unusable.
It was also discovered that the vulnerability of detainees, including victims of human trafficking and people with disabilities and severe mental health problems, was not being adequately assessed or recorded. Children were also being detained for longer than 24 hours.
Additionally, aspects of governance were reported to be insufficient, particularly in safeguarding and healthcare. Some detainees were unable to access phones to tell their family they were safe, while others were not allowed to close toilet doors fully.
Despite already challenging conditions, following the petrol bombing attack at the Dover immigration centre, it has been reported that over 700 refugees have been transferred to Manston processing facility.
Taylor further comments: ‘Recent intelligence from a number of credible sources, including the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, the Independent Monitoring Boards and staff associations, suggest that the current situation at Manston has significantly deteriorated since our July inspection’ and confirms that the inspectorate is therefore planning a ‘swift return.’
Taylor concludes: ‘the Home Office and its contractors need to get a grip and urgently act on the findings of this report to make sure all detainees are held in safe, decent and humane conditions.’