MPs find people still sleeping on mats on visit to Manston asylum centre

Home affairs committee members say site is still engulfed in crisis despite government assurances

Manston processing centre is still engulfed in a crisis despite government reassurances, a committee of MPs who visited the site has said.

Families of people seeking refuge in the UK are still sleeping on mats for weeks on end, the home affairs select committee (HASC) discovered.

One male detainee who shouted “help” and claimed he had been at the site for 30 days was seen being pinned up against a fence and dragged away by security guards when he tried to speak to members of the press. It comes as ministers seek to contain criticism of the UK’s struggling asylum system.

As MPs debated on Tuesday whether the home secretary, Suella Braverman, was fit for office, the high court heard that the government was paying for empty hotel rooms while councils attempted to block arrangements to house asylum seekers moved out of processing centres such as Manston in Kent.

Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, told the Commons on Monday that there had been a “significant reduction” in the number of people at the site and this was now “back below” its maximum capacity of 1,600 after more than 2,300 asylum seekers were moved to other accommodation.

After visiting the site on Monday with members of three parliamentary committees, Dame Diana Johnson, the HASC chair, said the government knew there would be a surge in arrivals by small boat but failed to prepare. “The crisis is not over. We encountered families who had been sleeping on mats on the floor for weeks. The Home Office has been running to keep up with this escalating crisis, rather than warding it off at the outset through planning and preparation,” she said.

On Tuesday evening another asylum seeker was seeking help from a homelessness organisation after reportedly being driven from Manston by Home Office staff and dropped off in London last Wednesday.

The asylum seeker, who travelled to the UK from Iraq, told a volunteer from the homelessness organisation Under One Sky he had been sleeping on the streets in London “for the past five days”.

At the Royal Courts of Justice, two local authorities argued there had been an “unauthorised material change of use” under planning rules through the Home Office’s attempts to book accommodation in Hull and Ipswich for asylum seekers. Both councils have asked for previously granted injunctions to be extended.

East Riding of Yorkshire council is asking Mr Justice Holgate to continue an interim injunction preventing asylum seekers being accommodated at the Humber View hotel in Hull.

Ipswich borough council is also asking for the extension of an interim injunction to stop further asylum seekers being placed at the four-star Novotel hotel in Ipswich city centre, where 72 people were already being housed.

Lawyers representing one of the hotel companies told the court that the government was currently paying for empty rooms at its property because of the legal action.

Seeking to capitalise on criticism of Braverman, the home secretary who was sacked by Liz Truss for compromising security only to be reinstated six days later by Rishi Sunak, Labour called on the government to release any related papers.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, told the Commons: “If the prime minister does have confidence in the home secretary not to be careless with public safety or with issues around security, then he should release the facts.”

The Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin said attempts by Labour to secure the release of any papers were a “fishing expedition” and would be resisted.

Reports have claimed British immigration officials could be stationed in French control rooms under a new £80m deal. Asked to comment, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “There are still discussions ongoing so I can’t get into that sort of speculation at this stage.”


Rajeev Syal Home affairs editor

The GuardianTramp

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