Afghan family detained in tent amid Channel crossing chaos
Despite spending £7 million a day on hotels, the Home Office cannot relocate the young children, so they are sleeping on mats.
An Afghan family with small children has been held in the United Kingdom in a tent for a month as a result of the Home Office's "chaotic" reaction to Channel crossings, according to information provided to MPs.
After arriving on small boats, officials testifying before the Home Affairs Committee acknowledged that asylum seekers were confined at a holding facility designed for 24-hour intervals for weeks.
Nearly 3,000 individuals were being held at a disused RAF facility in Manston, Kent, where incidents of diphtheria and scabies have been reported, it was revealed during the hearing. Because the Home Office lacks accommodations to relocate asylum seekers while their applications are being processed, some of them are sleeping on mats on the floor with no access to cooking facilities.
The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Neal, told the Committee that he was left “speechless” by what he witnessed during a visit on Monday and immediately wrote to the Home Secretary and prisons watchdog. “I spoke to an Afghan family who had been in a marquee for 32 days, with kit mats on the floor and blankets,” he said, describing the children as “young”.
Read next: UK leaving migrant women in limbo, threatening their safety
“These are wretched conditions,” he added. “It’s a really dangerous situation, it’s failing to address the vulnerability. “There are risks there in terms of fire, disorder, medical issues, and infection … there are 2,500 people not guarded by appropriately trained people. No prison in the country holds that many people.”
Neal said on the day he visited Manston only 78 migrants were transferred out and the average was 137, but hundreds were still arriving.
In order to coordinate the reaction to Channel crossings, Priti Patel named Dan O'Mahoney as the Clandestine Channel Threat Commander. O'Mahoney acknowledged that more than 3,000 people had at various stages been detained at Manston, some of whom had been detained there for a month.
“We are trying to increase the amount of accommodation [to move people to], that is our main priority to solve the problem,” he added. It is unclear whether the arrangement is legal, with O’Mahoney saying, the “rules allow for 24 hours” detention.
Read next: Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss promise expansion of 'cruel' Rwanda asylum plan
MPs revealed that Grant Shapps signed off on the procurement of new hotels to house asylum seekers during his time in the post, but the available supply was decreasing.
The initiative will raise hotel prices, which are present £5.6 million for asylum seekers and £1.2 million for resettling Afghan refugees every day, or over £7 million altogether.
The Royal Navy's effort to patrol the Channel and coordinate the response has received an additional £50 million in funding to stop human casualties and "uncontrolled" boat landings. More than 38,000 migrants crossed the English Channel in dinghies so far this year, with 93% of those claiming asylum.
The Home Office modified the law and immigration regulations so it could reject asylum claims from those who had traveled through France or other safe nations as "inadmissible", but with the Rwanda deal in shambles, it has nowhere to send them.
Read next: UK to introduce new 'bill of rights' after migrant deportation defeat