Processing site for migrants in Kent ‘unworkable and unacceptable’ – Tory MP

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The military base chosen by the Home Office to process migrants in Kent has been described as an “unworkable and unacceptable” proposal by a Conservative MP.

On Tuesday, the Home Office confirmed part of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) site in Manston, Kent, will be used as a “processing site for illegal migrants by January 2022”.

The secure site will be able to hold people “for a maximum of five days while their security and initial asylum processing checks are undertaken”.

However, the announcement was not welcomed by the constituency’s MP, Sir Roger Gale, who told the House of Commons the site was “inappropriate”.

Asking an urgent question, the MP for North Thanet said “there is no indication as to how the site will accommodate these human beings, will be made secure or what facilities will be made available, other than statutory (rules) on the site medical services”.

Sir Roger added: “I have identified at least one clean, comfortable and secure operational vessel that can, if commissioned, meet the immediate and longer term need and I’m advised that there are others available.

“I will be grateful if the minister will now instruct the team to do as I’ve already requested, put this unacceptable and unworkable proposal on hold and properly, thoroughly and swiftly examine the viable alternatives.

“And if while doing so he will conduct the consultations that ought to have been held weeks ago.”

Home Office minister Tom Pursglove confirmed a “consultation is ongoing”, adding: “I would make the point again, we are having to respond to these challenges at pace.

“But that consultation is ongoing, including with local authorities, including with the NHS and, of course, including with him as the constituency Member of Parliament, and with the police.”

Sir Roger was not the only MP concerned about welfare at the site.

The SNP’s Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) said: “A cross-party report by the all-party parliamentary group on immigration detention called on the Government to end its military-style accommodation for asylum seekers, which it described as fundamentally unsuitable for survivors of war, torture or serious violence. Why is the Home Office ignoring these warnings from parliamentary colleagues?”

He added the Government had “previously ignored warnings” of conditions at Napier Barracks which “inevitably” led to a Covid outbreak, and also asked: “Can the minister confirm the situation in Manston, that parts of that estate are currently condemned as a result of asbestos being on the site?”

Mr Pursglove said: “I would just make the point that I wouldn’t consider that we are ignoring concerns that are raised.

“That is why I have set out for the House we have consistently been responsive, for example to the reports of the inspectors and where they made recommendations, we considered those recommendations and we acted appropriately.”

The minister also said the Government would “act entirely appropriately with safety at the forefront” in regards to asbestos at the site.

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