Around Britain

Manston – the rotten truth

Kent County Councillor for Ramsgate, Karen Constantine, looks at the bleak reality of the UK’s failed immigration policy.

We heard rumours of plans to locate a migrant processing centre at Manston, East Kent. A rural area adjacent to touristy, and trendy, Ramsgate in Thanet. It was a surprise when we realised some months later that, over the summer, the Home Office had quietly commissioned a facility and it was up and running. We couldn’t have anticipated quite how notorious it would soon become. Nor how bleak and dehumanising the experience would be for those held there.

The news broke in October that the tented facility designed to hold 1,000 people, men, women and children, was bursting at the seams with more than 4,000 people being detained. Those being held can expect to spend in excess of 19 days in facilities that fall far below what should be provided. Standards so low in fact, they are being challenged through the courts as a breach of human rights.

The local press reported cases of diphtheria, scabies and MRSA rampaging through an already vulnerable population. We also realised that many residents had no beds, inadequate and inappropriate clothing, and that food and water supplies frequently ran out. In addition most of those detained had no support, this includes children with complex SEND needs. Distress and stress levels were predictably high.

We know that in excess of 40,000 asylum seekers in the UK have waited between one and three years for a decision on their claim. Those held at Manston face the same significant waits.

The local population rallied to show support to those forced to tolerate these terrible conditions and to demonstrate disgust towards Suella Braverman, the Home Office minister responsible for this mess. A number of large rallies were held outside the facility.

Braverman’s response was to visit the site in a Chinook helicopter, a horrific and transparent attempt at creating an ‘us and them’, ‘we’re at war’ narrative. What else could it be when the site is just sixty miles from Westminster and easily accessible by road or rail?

Further digging revealed more sinister military links. Labour’s Luke Pollard MP asked a series of questions:

– How many armed forces personnel are on secondment to Manston?

– How much is the Lt General being paid to oversee this work?

The answers were 13-19 soldiers on a three shift rotation, and the cost of the loan of Lt. General Skeates was £266,752 plus expenses. The involvement of the military is concerning.

We now hear the Home Secretary has signed a further deal to try to stop people crossing the English Channel in small boats. The UK currently pays France £53m per year for ‘patrols’ to cover the cost of increased patrols at their end. The revised agreement increases this to £63m. The number of officers patrolling the French coast to try to stop people setting off will rise from 200 to 300. Rishi Sunak stated his government “can’t fix the issue overnight.”

But the Conservatives have had 12 years to develop a process that’s both humane and fit for purpose.

Kent County Council also has statutory responsibilities to UASC – Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children. Which Kent County Council Conservative leader Roger Gough had previously used as a political football when he refused to take more children. Leaving them instead with the Border Force. A shameful and risky way to treat children.

Latterly I have written to Roger Gough again several times to seek his support to gain access to Manston as a local councillor, and also as many Thanet residents want to help the migrants. No response.

Across Kent and across the country there is deeply held concern about Manston, coupled with the desire to see a humane and pragmatic response. Until we can rid ourselves of this rotten Conservative government we will remain vigilant and watchful.

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