Conditions at the Manston processing centre deteriorated further last night as insiders warned that migrants were fighting each other with improvised weapons.
The site in Kent has tripled in size since May, when seven tents were being used to house asylum seekers – compared with 21 yesterday as numbers swelled.
Some 4,000 people are now packed into the former RAF station – which has a capacity of just 1,600. Severe overcrowding at the centre has led to outbreaks of violence and infections such as diphtheria.
The situation became even more dire yesterday with the arrival of another 700 migrants, who were brought from Dover after the Western Jet Foil processing centre was attacked with petrol bombs on Sunday.
Last night staff in Manston warned that migrants are making blades out of tent parts, loo roll holders and broken bits from the wired fence. It came as a damning report called for ministers to ‘get a grip’ of the crisis after a watchdog uncovered worrying conditions. Charlie Taylor, chief inspector of prisons, carried out an unannounced visit in July and found evidence of ‘exhausted’ migrants sleeping on floors and ‘impatient staff’.
An aerial view of the Manston processing centre in Kent. The site has trippled in size since May due to record numbers of small boat crossings
Some 4,000 people are now packed into the former RAF station in Manston – which has a capacity of just 1,600. Severe overcrowding at the centre has led to outbreaks of violence and infections such as diphtheria
The situation has since worsened due to record numbers of migrants arriving in the UK via small boats this summer.
Lucy Moreton, a professional officer at the Union for Borders, Immigration and Customs, said staff in Manston have witnessed ‘incredibly tense’ scenes in the last 24 hours.
‘Tensions have been very high in Manston for the last three weeks off and on, as people are staying there longer and longer and are becoming increasingly more frustrated,’ she told the Daily Mail.
‘They get bored. Mostly the migrants fight amongst each other rather than fight us – but then our staff have to go in and separate them. Staff have already expressed serious concerns about improvised weapons that are being found.’
Miss Moreton said the violence is largely being driven by Albanian men, adding: ‘We’ve got a fairly high proportion of individuals in reach of a deportation order or with other known criminality and most of the unrest tends to focus around them.’
People who live near Manston have also expressed safety concerns amid questions of whether migrants will be rehomed to prevent overcrowding.
Margaret Brown, 71, said: ‘It is a fear. You’ve got children and everyone going through here. We’ve got our grandchildren here.
‘Gangsters and everyone else they are bringing over, they’ve not been checked.’
People who live near Manston have also expressed safety concerns amid questions of whether migrants will be rehomed to prevent overcrowding. Pictured: A view of people thought to be migrants at the Manston immigration short-term holding facility in Kent
Natasha Roots, 27, said it would be ‘very concerning’ if migrants were rehomed in empty accommodation near her. She added: ‘Quite frankly there are enough people already living [here] that need houses.’
In his 37-page report, Mr Taylor expressed concern over the conditions at Manston, with some migrants waiting up to 70 hours to be processed. He added: ‘It was particularly disappointing to see exhausted detainees forced to sleep on floor mats between rows of seats or on wooden benches.
‘Much more accommodation was available at Manston but it was as yet unstaffed and did not have proper sleeping facilities. Detainees could not go outside for fresh air.’ The report also found that ‘a considerable minority’ of migrants have been moved to temporary hotel accommodation without screening.
Mr Taylor added: ‘Recent intelligence from a number of credible sources… suggest that the current situation at Manston has significantly deteriorated since our July inspection.
‘We are hearing that detainees are now being held in greater numbers and for much longer periods of time in cramped and uncomfortable conditions, often supervised by staff who have not been suitably trained.’
A Home Office spokesman said the asylum system is ‘under incredible pressure’ but added: ‘Manston remains resourced and equipped to process migrants securely and we will provide alternative accommodation as soon as possible.’
It comes as extra tents have been set up at a migrant processing centre in Kent where 4,000 people are packed into a space designed for just 1,600.
Unions warned the facility in Manston is ‘like a pressure cooker’, with cases of diphtheria and outbreaks of violence.
Overcrowding at the former RAF airfield worsened after 700 more migrants were taken to the centre from another site in Dover which was attacked on Sunday by a man hurling petrol bombs.
Aerial photos show large tents that have been set up at Manston, a migrant processing centre in Kent that is said to be heavily overcrowded
Sir Roger Gale, a local Conservative MP, described the situation at Manston as a ‘breach of humane conditions’ and accused ministers of deliberately fuelling overcrowding.
‘There are simply far too many people and this situation should never have been allowed to develop, and I’m not sure that it hasn’t almost been developed deliberately,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Migrants who have crossed the Channel in small boats arrive at the Dover centre before being taken to Manston for processing.
They are meant to stay there for a maximum of 24 hours while they undergo checks before being moved into immigration detention centres or asylum accommodation such as hotels.
But Home Secretary Suella Braverman was said to have blocked the transfer of migrants from the centre amid the soaring cost of housing them in hotels, which is around £6million per day.
It comes as new official figures revealed a further 468 migrants were intercepted crossing the Channel in small boats on Sunday in eight separate incidents.
Sunday’s arrivals take the number to make the treacherous crossing so far this year to 39,259, compared to 28,526 in 2021.
Migrants and staff could be seen milling around in the field outside the large tents
Unions have warned the facility in Manston is ‘like a pressure cooker’, with cases of diphtheria and outbreaks of violence
A man walks near a shower area inside the immigration processing centre in Manston, Kent
A woman waves at the camera from behind a green tarpaulin covering a wire fence at a migrant processing centre in Manston, Kent
Conditions inside the Manston facility – the outside of which is pictured today – have been described as dangerous and overcrowded
A member of staff watches on as a group of migrants gather together inside the Manston centre, which is located inside a former RAF base
A man holds up a baby inside an immigration processing centre in Manston, where conditions have been criticised by MPs
A view of people thought to be migrants at the Manston immigration short-term holding facility. It was previously used by the MoD to train firefighters
Sir Roger, the MP for North Thanet, told Sky News there were now more than 4,000 people at Manston. He said conditions were ‘wholly unacceptable’ and suggested it may have been allowed to happen ‘deliberately’.
‘That’s like driving a car down a motorway, seeing the motorway clear ahead, then there’s a car crash, and then suddenly there’s a five mile tailback. The car crash was the decision not to book more hotel space,’ he said.
Asked whether Ms Braverman is the right person to handle this situation, Sir Roger said: ‘I’m not seeking to point fingers at the moment but I do believe whoever is responsible, and that is either the previous home secretary or this one, has to be held to account, because a bad decision was taken and it’s led to what I would regard as a breach of humane conditions.’
There have been outbreaks of diphtheria and scabies at Manston – and the Guardian reported there was a case of MRSA. Staff are also reporting outbreaks of violence amid tensions over the conditions.
Lucy Moreton, from the Immigration Services Union (ISU), told MailOnline: ‘The situation at Manston has been allowed to become utterly catastrophic.
‘Over 4,000 people are now on site; some, including families with children, for more than 4 weeks. The facilities are utterly inadequate.
‘Staff face threatening and violet behaviour on a daily basis from migrants who are frustrated and bored. The ISU has raised urgent concerns that detention at this site and for this length of time is unlawful.’
Andy Baxter, assistant general secretary of the POA, said Manston has unfolded as a ‘humanitarian crisis on British soil’, with ‘pressure cooker’ conditions building.
There have also been outbreaks of violence at the facility, whistleblowers from the camp told the Daily Mail over the weekend.
‘Fights have broken out between Albanians and Eritreans using sharpened combs from their Home Office washbags as weapons,’ the source said.
‘A small Army detachment is inside to help keep order. We have been told riot police are on standby to enter if the migrants kick off in the next few days. It is a tinderbox.
‘Migrants have attacked Border Force officials and security staff, who are scared and outnumbered.’
Cabinet minister Michael Gove yesterday told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme the situation at Manston is ‘deeply concerning’ but he denied that the Home Secretary ignored or dismissed legal advice.
Chief inspector of prisons Charlie Taylor, who has inspected the facility, said urgent improvements were needed.
‘We were absolutely clear in our report that’s coming out tomorrow that the Home Office and contractors need to get a grip, they need to speed up the processing of migrants, they need to make suitable provisions so people can be moved off site as quickly as possible and housed in humane and decent conditions,’ he told Today.
Sir Roger, the MP for North Thanet, told Sky News there were now more than 4,000 people at Manston. He said conditions were ‘wholly unacceptable’ and suggested it may have been allowed to happen ‘deliberately’
He said: ‘That’s like driving a car down a motorway, seeing the motorway clear ahead, then there’s a car crash, and then suddenly there’s a five mile tailback’
Migrants who have crossed the Channel in small boats arrive at the Dover centre before being taken to the Manston for processing
Members of the military and UK Border Force extinguish a fire from a petrol bomb in Dover, Kent, on Sunday
Mr Taylor added: ‘The facilities are not set up for people to be staying. It’s not a residential facility. It’s a short-term holding facility which is supposed to process people through.
‘So the danger is if people are spending long periods of time in what are very cramped conditions without suitable accommodation that’s just not acceptable.’
Mr Jenrick visited Manston on Sunday after another watchdog, Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration David Neal, told MPs he was left ‘speechless’ by the problems at the site.
In a post on Twitter, Mr Jenrick said migrants continue to be processed ‘securely’ in ‘challenging conditions’, adding: ‘I was hugely impressed by the staff I met, managing this intolerable situation.’
The same day police said two or three incendiary devices were thrown at a migrant processing centre in Dover and caused a fire.
The suspect was identified and found at a nearby petrol station, where he was confirmed dead, Kent Police said.
Two people inside the centre at Western Jet Foil were left with minor injuries.
Although the site remained open, 700 people were moved to Manston for safety reasons.
A Reuters photographer said a man threw petrol bombs with fireworks attached before killing himself. The news agency reported the attacker was described as a white man wearing a striped top, who drove up to the centre in a white Seat 4×4 vehicle.
Some 468 people arrived in the UK on Sunday after crossing the Channel in eight boats, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said, taking the provisional total for the year so far to 39,864.
A group of migrants outside the Manston facility last week. The site in Kent is located in the former Defence Fire Training and Development Centre in Thanet, Kent
Overcrowding at the former RAF airfield has worsened after 700 more migrants were bussed to the centre from another site in Dover that was attacked on Sunday by a man hurling petrol bombs
Migrants are meant to stay at Manston for a maximum of 24 hours while they undergo checks before being moved into immigration detention centres or asylum accommodation such as hotels
A file photo of the facility, where unions and whistleblowers say conditions have deteriorated in recent weeks
Environment minister Mark Spencer told Sky News the UK needs to find a way to deal with migrants ‘compassionately’ as he acknowledged there are ‘huge challenges’ in the system.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said there is no ‘silver bullet’ to fix the migrant crisis, adding: ‘Clearly there’s more to do, but we’re making progress.’
In an interview with GB News, he denied there had been an outbreak of diphtheria within the facility.
‘My understanding is actually that people presented with diphtheria and were treated by the medical facilities there,’ he said.
‘That was not an outbreak of diphtheria within the facility. That’s people landing on our shores with that condition and being treated by our medical teams there to help them and support them.
James Wilson, Deputy Director at Detention Action, said: ‘Home Office statistics show that most of the people being held at Manston, including children, are likely to be refugees who have already survived serious trauma and danger to reach our shores.
‘The Home Office is now denying those people essential medical, psychological and legal support. It is cruel and unlawful to detain people for weeks on end in these increasingly unsanitary, overcrowded conditions.’
The Home Office said last night: ‘The Home Secretary has taken urgent decisions to alleviate issues at Manston and source alternative accommodation. Claims advice was deliberately ignored are completely baseless.
‘It is right we look at all available options so decisions can be made based on the latest operational and legal advice.
‘The number of people arriving in the UK via small boats has reached record levels, which has put our asylum system under incredible pressure and costs the British taxpayer millions of pounds a day.’
Migrants at the Western Jet Foil processing centre in Dover on Sunday following the petrol bomb incident
Flames could be seen on the ground as the man threw a petrol bomb with a firework attached out of the car window