Migrants who have recently left Manston immigration centre have shared horrifying accounts of overcrowded and unhygienic conditions, describing it as “like a prison camp”. Some migrants are threatening to self-harm and go on hunger strike in protest at being detained, Sky News reported on Wednesday.
The charity Humans for Rights Network shared accounts from two 16-year-old asylum seekers who were in Manston about a month ago.
One said: “I spent 17 days in Manston. I slept on a blanket and was covered with another blanket which was not enough for me and I was feeling cold. There were daily fights between people during my stay.”
The other said: “There were no beds in the tents, not even chairs. We used to put the food boxes on the floor and slept on them.
“I spent all the time in the clothes they gave me when I arrived and they were wet with rainwater. A skin disease spread during my stay and I was afraid of getting infected with it.”
Up to 4,000 people have been held at the centre which was built to cater for 1,600 to be processed within 24 hours.
Other migrants shared similar experiences. Adil Amir Al Shamiri, 42, told the i Manston was a “filthy prison”.
Mr Shamiri said he was forced to sleep on the ground in a room packed with 140 people during his week-long stay.
He said: “It was like a prison. The place is crowded. The filth fills the floor. There is no bed to sleep.
“We had 140 people sleeping between each other’s legs. Filth fills the place and infectious diseases, and I am one of those infected now with scabies. It was indescribable. It was like a real detention facility.”
Mr Shamiri claimed personal belongings including clothes, shoes, phones and cigarettes were confiscated on arrival and only returned when people left.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ahmed – not his real name – said he had spent 24 days at Manston and compared it to a “prison camp”.
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He said: “I slept on the floor, a lot of people were there. In one big tent there were maybe 130 people. It was cold.
“We can’t go to the toilet, we can’t take a shower, take a bath, we don’t have any clothes, we are not animals!”
He added: ‘For the 24 days I’m in there, I can’t call to my family to say to them I’m dead, I’m living – they don’t know anything about me… all people in there, they have a family. They should know what is happening to us.’
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Manston remains resourced and equipped to process migrants securely and we will provide alternative accommodation as soon as possible.
“We provide for all the basic needs of people who will have arrived tired, cold, in wet clothing and who may not have eaten during their journey. The Home Office provides 24/7 health facilities at Manston as well as having robust contingency plans to deal with health issues such as communicable diseases.”
The stark accounts of life inside the centre come as the Government faces mounting pressure to find suitable accommodation for asylum seekers.
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Local council leaders have responded angrily to the Home Office booking out hotels to house migrants. Ashford Borough Council said the Government has “shown a complete disregard for us and the local community” by not liaising with the local authority.
Council leader Gerry Clarkson said: “We have no control over this decision at all, and are extremely angry at the Home Office on how they have handled this situation.”
“They have ignored not only our views, but those of Kent County Council, Kent Police and local health services. They have shown a complete disregard for us and the local community, and this situation cannot continue.
“All Kent and Medway local authority leaders are writing jointly to the Secretary of State for the Home Office to ask her to stop using the county as an easy fix for what is a national, strategic issue.”
At least four local councils are mounting legal action over the practice of block-booking rooms, which prevents hotels from taking reservations from other travellers.
The use of hotels to house migrants has also been in the spotlight after it was revealed that 222 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are missing from hotels funded by the Home Office.
Thirty-nine of the youngsters have been missing for at least 100 days and 17 were lost within a day of the Home Office becoming responsible for them.