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Staff concerns over safety of immigration holding facility in Kent

The POA trade union, which represents some staff at the facility in Manston, Kent, says staff have likened the situation to a ‘pressure cooker’.

06 October 2022

Channel migrants are being held for up to a week in a new processing centre which is “struggling” to cope with the influx of people, a union which represents Border Force officers warned.

The POA union said the facilities at the site in Kent are inadequate, highlighting rising “tensions” which have already seen the police called and the facility run out of food and water

Opened by the Home Office in January 2022, the Manston immigration short-term holding facility is located at the former Defence Fire Training and Development Centre in Thanet.

The union says the large number of people arriving during September means that the target of holding people at the Manston site for 24 to 48 hours is “purely aspirational”, with people staying at the facility for up to a week.

PA news agency analysis of government figures shows 7,961 people arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel in September.

POA says the facility is a “significant improvement” to the Tug Haven processing site at the Port of Dover, however they say the Manston facility is struggling to perform its role and tensions are rising.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
Part of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) site in Manston, Kent, where preparations are being made to use the site as a processing centre for illegal migrants (Gareth Fuller/PA)

A spokesman for the POA said: “A member working at the site likened the situation to a pressure cooker coming to the boil with a jammed release valve.

She described the ability to move people on from the site in a timely manner as that pressure release valve.

“We have had reports of incidents escalating, altercations between residents boiling over and resulting in injury with police having to be called to the site to investigate assaults and provide support to staff.

“The POA believe the failure to relieve this pressure sits at the highest level, with a Government that has not provided a coherent response at pace to the increase in numbers of migrants crossing the Channel and the strain that is putting on the facility.

“There have been days where the facility has run out of food and drinking water for residents.

“The marquees are crowded, levels of bedding on site have become inadequate, laundry facilities are inadequate, cleaning regimes are not adhered to, and issues have been raised around high levels of condensation within the marquees which has led to mould and bacteria developing.

“We will today write to Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons and urge his inspectorate to attend and assess the developing situation.”

Kent Police has been contacted for more information on the occasions officers were called to the site.

The Home Office has also been contacted for comment.

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