Instead of thinking of ways to assist individuals arriving from Calais, ministers decided to label them “illegal immigrants.” Being made to dwell in cramped quarters where infectious diseases are rampant. Sleeping with just one blanket on an empty floor. Having no hot water for ten days, not being able to take a shower, and always being hungry. That’s how one 16-year-old boy characterised his time spent in Manston, the Kent refugee reception centre that has drawn national attention for its treatment of recently arrived refugees.
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has released a fresh report on the contentious temporary holding facility for refugees at Kent’s Manston. Before Suella Braverman, the current home secretary, reportedly delayed hotel reservations that would have allowed refugees to be discharged from the institution, the inspection took place in late July 2022. We are aware that this has led to a significant worsening of the situation. A building that could only accommodate 1,600 people was reportedly overcrowded with up to 4,000 people as a result.
According to the latest assessment, July was a dismal month overall. The inspectors discovered weak security clearance and staff training governance, inadequate leadership, weak governance of health care systems, and more. They also discovered that some children were imprisoned for much too extended periods of time. Over the past two years, senior government workers and politicians have received several warnings that there are significant issues at these refugee camps; nonetheless, the situation has been allowed to deteriorate even worse.
The centre was deemed “dangerous” and “wretched” by the UK’s Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, who visited it last week. Sir Roger Gale, the local Conservative MP, stated that the circumstances there “breach humane conditions.” We are aware from reports that the situation is disturbing and represents a serious breach in planning and care. There are currently 4,000 migrants living at the centre, a former airfield, when there should only be 1,600. Scabies, MRSA, and diphtheria are all on the rise.
And the way people are treated is adding to the suffering. We wholeheartedly concur with Gale’s statement that “someone needs to be held to account” for the debacle in his district. Because this issue did not just suddenly arise. In actuality, the government is to blame for the issue.
The Government Might Have and Ought to Have Prepared for The Rising Number of Refugees by Making Plans for How to Handle Them
Every government has a responsibility to consider what the future may hold and to make plans accordingly. We have all been aware for a while that more and more small boats are leaving Europe. And the fact that nothing was altering to halt that was as obvious as a sunny day on the English Channel. The government might have—and ought to have—planned what steps it would take to deal with the increasing number of refugees.
Instead of acting, it decided to label those leaving Calais as “illegal immigrants”—a label that ignores the overwhelming amount of evidence—much of it published on Parliament’s own website—that they are, in fact, genuine refugees who are merely seeking our assistance. Using language that is so polarising and nasty does not solve any problems. Instead, it makes matters worse by encouraging angst and animosity. This harms our culture and sows dissension and terror throughout our neighbourhoods. It appears from her statements so far that Suella Braverman will simply increase the acrimony on both sides of the argument.
A maximum of five days should pass in Manston before someone is transferred to an asylum facility. There is little doubt that the centre faces unique difficulties, but as with many other shortcomings in the asylum system, the main impediment to this happening is the vast backlog in the country’s asylum procedures. In the UK, there are currently more over 100,000 unresolved asylum cases, and many applicants must wait between one and two years for their cases to be heard. Surprisingly, 96% of asylum requests from 2021 are still pending.
These thousands of people could resume their lives if these claims were properly processed. If their claims were accepted, they would be able to integrate into our society and find employment and housing. They could contribute to our economic growth and assist address present labour shortages in sectors like tourism, hospitality, and the care sector without costing the taxpayer £7 million per day to put them in hotels. And there wouldn’t be disease outbreaks, starving kids sleeping on floors, or senseless misery like what we see in Manston.
A national shame is what we are witnessing in Kent. But what is most regrettable about it is how simple it would have been to prevent.
Tahir Shahab Khan