Government facing legal challenge over migrant overcrowding in Manston

2 November 2022, 23:55 | Updated: 3 November 2022, 06:49

The government is facing a judicial review over its treatment of migrants, the immigration minister has said
The government is facing a judicial review over its treatment of migrants, the immigration minister has said. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Kit Heren

The government is likely to face a judicial review over the conditions in which migrants are living in the Manston processing centre, with reports of overcrowding and disease outbreaks, a minister has admitted

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Immigration minister Robert Jenrick confirmed the Government has received "initial contact for a judicial review" over Manston.

Speaking to Sky News' The Take with Sophy Ridge, he said: "I believe we have received the initial contact for a judicial review."

Mr Jenrick insisted that this is "not unusual" as it is a "highly litigious area of policy", but said as the minister responsible he wants to ensure everything is conducted "appropriately and within the law".

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"I have tried to work night and day to ensure that the Manston site is not just legally compliant but is a humane and compassionate place where we welcome those migrants, treat them appropriately and then they leave quickly to alternative accommodation," he said.

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Mr Jenrick suggested conditions at the facility may not currently be legal, as he said: "I expect that Manston will be returned to a well-functioning and certainly legally compliant site very rapidly."

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He told ITV's Robert Peston he thinks there are around 3,500 people at the centre as of Wednesday evening, and he expects numbers to get down to an "acceptable level" within around seven days. The site has a capacity of 1,600.

"We're procuring more hotels in all parts of the country, decanting the migrants from Manston to those as quickly as we can," he said.

"And once we've done that, we'll be able to restore Manston to the kind of acceptable humane conditions that all of us would want to see."

Three men sit at the Manston processing centre
Three men sit at the Manston processing centre. Picture: Getty
Migrants at Manston on Wednesday
Migrants at Manston on Wednesday. Picture: Getty

It comes amid claims that Suella Braverman ignored legal warnings that the Home Office was breaking the law by keeping asylum seekers in overcrowded, disease-ridden processing centres for too long, according to reports.

The recently reinstated home secretary was told at least three weeks ago that migrants were being kept in overcrowded centres in Manston, in Kent, for unlawful lengths of time, the Sunday Times reported, citing five sources.

Migrants are not supposed to be kept in the processing centres for more than 24 hours under UK laws, while they undergo initial checks. Some 2,600 migrants have been kept for more than four weeks in the centres - only designed to house 1,600.

Suella Braverman earlier this month
Suella Braverman earlier this month. Picture: Getty

Ms Braverman was allegedly told that she needed to resolved the breach quickly by rehousing the asylum seekers elsewhere.

The breach could be set to cost the taxpayer "millions" if the migrants are granted asylum and take legal action.

A government source said: “The government is likely to be JR’d [judicially reviewed] and it’s likely that all of them would be granted asylum, so it’s going to achieve the exact opposite of what she wants.

"These people could also launch a class action against us and cost the taxpayer millions.”

Migrants carry a smuggling boat on their shoulders as they prepare to embark
Migrants carry a smuggling boat on their shoulders as they prepare to embark from France. Picture: Getty
Migrants sail after boarding a smuggler's boat
Migrants sail after boarding a smuggler's boat. Picture: Getty

Civil servants also allegedly warned Ms Braverman that the Home Office would very likely lose a legal challenge, and there could be a public inquiry if the issue came to light.

The processing centres have now suffered a breakout of the bacterial disease dipthheria, as well as the skin condition scabies.

Many of the migrants have come to the UK over the English Channel in recent weeks in small boats.

The number of people crossing the Channel this way has skyrocketed in recent years, with more than 38,000 this year alone. The backlog of asylum processing claims has reached 100,000.