Suella Braverman has denied ignoring legal advice regarding the Home Office illegally detaining asylum seekers at the Manston asylum processing centre, after it was revealed people are being detained for up to a month in the “short-term” holding facility.
The home secretary told the House of Commons on Monday that she “has never ignored legal advice” about the centre. The Times reported over the weekend that Braverman was warned three weeks ago that migrants were being detained there for unlawfully long periods, and that the legal breach needed to be resolved urgently.
Last week, clandestine Channel threat commander Dan O’Mahoney told the Home Affairs Select Committee that while the Manston facility is a short-term holding facility, which is classified legally as only allowing people to be detained there for less than 24 hours, some individuals have been held there upwards of a month.
The centre is also overcrowded – a situation that has been exacerbated after the Home Office moved more people into folllowing Sunday’s petrol bomb attack on Western Jet Foil, the Dover centre for processing migrants. “Several hundred migrants were relocated to Manston,” Braverman said.
The population at the Manston centre is now at more than double capacity. Maximum capacity at Manston is 1,600, with about 4,000 people currently held in the facility.
Last week during testimony to HASC, David Neal, independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, said it was “really concerning and alarming” that the number of people at the facility is “clearly outstripping the capacity of the site”.
There have also been reports of cases of scabies and diphtheria, and the site has passed the ability to be properly and safely run. The lack of planning contributing to the overcapacity at Manston and Western Jet Foil is partially from “a creeping lack of ambition from the Home Office,” Neal said.
The Times reported that Braverman has refused to sign off on bail or temporary asylum accommodations, leaving Home Office officials in a difficult position, since they cannot release people in the facilities without Braverman releasing the money.
Sir Roger Gale, a Conservative MP with the Manston processing centre in his constituency, said Braverman’s policy decision to not commission further temporary accommodation for asylum seekers “has led to the crisis at Manston.”
The processing centres were functioning over the summer, but in the past month or so, have fallen to “disaster and dysfunction” and are “dreadful,” Scottish National Party MP Stuart C. McDonald and Labour MP Yvette Cooper said.
According to Neal, Manston has fire, disorder, and medical infection risks, and is a “really dangerous situation” that fails to “address vulnerability.”
In the past two months, about 4,500 additional hotel spaces have been procured, Braverman said. However, she has “refused” to “prematurely release thousands of people” from the asylum centres into communities.
Labour MP Stella Creasy reported that at a hotel in her constituency, rooms housed seven or eight people each, with lack of access to cooking facilities, clothes, or schools for children.”
“The system is broken. Illegal migration is out of control,” Braverman said.