LONDON (AP) — British politicians from opposition and ruling parties on Monday called on the Conservative government to improve conditions at an overcrowded migrant facility described by an independent inspector as “miserable.”
Hundreds of people who crossed the English Channel in small boats have been moved to Manston, a former airfield in south-east England, after another treatment center was hit by petrol bombs on Sunday by a assailant who then committed suicide. There were already 3,000 people in the facility, which is believed to hold about half.
Lawmakers are demanding Home Secretary Suella Braverman come to parliament on Monday to answer questions about conditions at Manston.
It is meant to be a temporary processing center where new arrivals spend 24 hours before moving into longer-term accommodation, but refugee groups say some people have been stuck there for weeks.
Chief Border Inspector David Neal, who recently visited the area, said last week that conditions were “miserable”. He told lawmakers there had been cases of diphtheria and “it’s a really dangerous situation.”
Tory lawmaker Roger Gale, who represents the Manston area in parliament, said the situation was a “breach of humane conditions”.
“Until about five weeks ago the system was working as expected, very well indeed,” he said. “It is now broken and it needs to be fixed quickly.”
Gale accused the government of deliberately worsening conditions in Manston by refusing to book hotel rooms for asylum seekers.
“There are just way too many people and this situation should never have developed, and I’m not sure it wasn’t developed deliberately,” he told the BBC. “I want the person responsible for creating this problem to be held accountable.”
The UK receives fewer asylum seekers than many European countries, including France and Germany. But there has been a surge in the number of people trying to cross the English Channel in dinghies and other small craft. Some 40,000 people have made the dangerous journey on one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes so far this year, up from 28,000 in 2021 and 8,500 in 2020.
Dozens of people have died, including 27 people in November 2021 when a crowded smuggling boat capsized.
Britain and France have been squabbling over how to stop the smuggling gangs organizing the trips.
The UK government has announced a controversial plan to send people arriving in small boats on a one-way trip to Rwanda – a plan it says will deter people from crossing the Channel and break the business model of smuggling gangs . Critics say the plan is immoral and impractical, and is being challenged in court.
Braverman, who was appointed in September by ex-Prime Minister Liz Truss, is an enthusiastic supporter of the stalled Rwandan plan and has been accused by critics of demonizing migrants.
The government says the problems are caused by an increase in the number of migrants, but critics accuse the government of allowing a backlog to develop. Labor immigration spokesman Stephen Kinnock said there was “chaos and confusion, and incompetence now at the heart of the government’s immigration and asylum policy”.
“The government, rather than doing the heavy lifting and the hard work of clearing the backlog, is making headlines with things like the Rwandan plan, which is just unworkable, unethical and unaffordable,” he said. he told Times Radio.