Border inspector ‘frankly speechless’ over migrant centre demand

Neal ‘speechless’ after visiting migrant detention centre

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Immigration and borders inspector, David Neal told a committee meeting in Parliament this 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. 

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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“There are over 100,000 asylum claims waiting to be decided so there’s a huge backlog,” she added.

Dame Diana said she is “gummed up” with migrants staying in processing centres for “weeks on end” as they cannot move through the system while those waiting for their claims to be processed stay in hotels.

She said the Government needs to tackle the backlog immediately, which would “free up resources and would make the system much swifter” and “establish some safe and legal routes so people can make asylum claims”.

A spokesperson for the Union for Borders, Immigration & Customs (ISU) acknowledged on the same programme that the migrant process centre at Manston in Kent is “catastrophically overcrowded” and people are not being held in “humane conditions”.

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Lucy Moreton said: “The individuals there, both the contractor and the immigration staff have no training as prison officers or in public order situations and yet are being called upon on a daily basis to intervene.

“The migrants aren’t being kept in humane conditions, they don’t have any enrichment, they don’t have anything to do, they’re bored, they’re frustrated and understandably they scrap among themselves and with us.

“It’s not their fault they’re in that situation.

“In fairness, it’s not Border Force or Immigration Enforcement’s Fault. There’s no housing upstream so we can’t move them on.”

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