Children moved from Manston 'prison camp' go missing as ministers vow crackdown will send migrants home 'within days'

2 November 2022, 11:46 | Updated: 2 November 2022, 12:17

The centre has been compared to a prison and zoo.
The centre has been compared to a prison and zoo. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Hundreds of children have gone missing from hotels after being processed at the 'inhumane' migrant facility at Manston, it has emerged.

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It comes as ministers are said to be drawing up plans to deport thousands of asylum seekers "within days" in a bid to ease the crisis.

They want to avoid giving those who fail to be granted asylum the chance to appeal by shipping them back to eastern Europe almost immediately.

The legal process currently means that arrivals have to be put in hotels - which is paid for by the taxpayer - as they can only be held in processing centres like Manston briefly.

However, conditions at Manston have been likened to both a "prison camp" and "zoo" by people who have been held there.

Some are understood to have caught scabies while others have had their phones and cigarettes "confiscated" and been forced to sleep on the floor, with some held there for over 30 days.

The former RAF base was initially designed to only hold up to 1,600 people for a maximum of 48 hours but it has become a temporary home to almost 4,000 migrants in recent weeks.

One migrant claimed they were being treated more like "animals in a zoo" while another, who spent 24 days at Manston, compared it to a "prison camp".

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People thought to be migrants at the Manston immigration short-term holding facility
People thought to be migrants at the Manston immigration short-term holding facility. Picture: Alamy

"I slept on the floor, a lot of people were there. In one big tent there were maybe 130 people," he told the Today programme.

"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 went on: "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."

Adil Amir Al Shamiri, 42, told the i he was packed into a room of 140 people and forced to sleep on the floor.

"It was like a prison. The place is crowded. The filth fills the floor. There is no bed to sleep," he said.

"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.

"Children don’t get sleeping covers and they don’t get diapers. There are hundreds of people with scabies. The situation is tragic."

Children play inside the Manston immigration short-term holding facility
Children play inside the Manston immigration short-term holding facility. Picture: Alamy

Meanwhile, outside of Manston, figures suggest 1,322 migrant children have been housed in hotels, with 222 of them going missing since October 19.

They were placed there between July and September, with the average length of time spent in a hotel being 16 days, according to Sky.

Just under 40 of them have been missing for at least 100 days and 17 were lost within a day of the Home Office becoming responsible for them, it is understood.

Under-fire Home Secretary Suella Braverman has said that the Home Office works "very closely with local authorities and the police to operate a robust missing persons protocol".

A Home Office spokesperson said: "We are seeing an unprecedented rise in dangerous Channel crossings.

"This is putting extreme pressure on our asylum system and has meant we have had no alternative but to temporarily use hotels to give children a roof over their heads while long-term accommodation is found.

"On average, unaccompanied children seeking asylum are moved to long-term care within 15 days of arriving in a hotel, but we know more needs to be done.

"That is why we are working closely with local authorities to increase the number of placements available.”

Suella Braverman is facing criticism over the overcrowded facility
Suella Braverman is facing criticism over the overcrowded facility. Picture: Alamy

LBC found Ms Braverman allegedly refused to sign off on hotel bookings for migrants, which would have eased pressure on the Manston processing centre, because "they were in Tory voting areas".

A senior government source said she was presented with options for locations to move asylum seekers from the overcrowded site in Kent, but wouldn’t approve those in Conservative seats.

It’s claimed three hotels were approved last week which are in Labour constituencies, although the source would not confirm where these are.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick denied the claims.

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