Manston migrant staff ‘frightened’ after facing ‘improvised weapons’

Lucy Moreton updates on situation at Manston after protests

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The worsening situation at the Manston immigration centre in Kent is said to be leaving staff fearful amid protests and the discovery of “improvised weapons.” Overcrowding has seen tensions at Manston escalate as immigration staff struggle to maintain order amid a backlog after a spike in English Channel crossings, the crisis worsened last week after a petrol bomb attack on another immigration centre in Dover sparked fears over possible copycat attacks. 

Immigration Services Union general secretary Lucy Moreton told Radio 4’s Today Programme: “The members are reporting real concerns not only that there could be a copycat attack, or that may have been part of a broader programme or though that appears unlikely, but certainly it could be copied.

“There’s been a lot of drones flying over the site in the last 24 hours, there’s a lot of tensions on site.

“The migrants are very keen to be moving to be moved on to get their freedom back. Staff face on a daily basis sit down protests, being chanted at being shouted at up.

“Constant searches going on improvised weapons are always being found, it’s a really frightening time for the staff. 

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“No prison in the UK has over 4000 People uncontained face to face with those who are responsible for controlling them.

“That’s an utterly unsustainable position.”

Immigration and borders inspector, David Neal told a committee meeting in Parliament last week that he had been left loss for word after visiting the short-term migrant detention centre.

He recalled serious problems with overcrowding, inadequate staffing and an overall failure to keep up with the soaring demand as migrants arrive from across the English Channel in even greater numbers. 

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Mr Neal told Home Affairs Committee: “What was really concerning, what was alarming was the numbers have been described are clearly outstripping the capacity of the site.

“The facilities that you will have seen earlier in the year and the ones that I saw when I last visited in April, saw detainee custody offices supervising detainees, close to where the fire station was, close to where the integration was.

“The capacity has now outstripped those detainee custody offices, so there is in the order of nearly two and a half thousand people who were being guarded by non-trained detainee custody officers.

“So they’ve been guarded by a mixture of immigration enforcement officers and security guards.”

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He continued: “It was sufficiently alarming when I discovered that I was frankly speechless that I’m not someone who’s is normally speechless.

“I immediately arranged to speak to Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons, which I did and I wrote to the Home Secretary on Monday night to alert him as it was then to the situation.”

Labour’s chair of the Home Affairs Committee later remarked that the asylum and immigration systems are “in crisis”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Dame Diana Johnson,  said: “I think the asylum system and the immigration system is in crisis.”

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