Manston Asylum Centre, the Home Office’s troubled site in Kent where people arriving in the UK in small boats are taken for initial checks, is believed to be completely empty, the Guardian has learned.
Just a few weeks ago around 4,000 arrivals were placed there by the Home Office, almost three times the maximum capacity of 1,600 places at the tent site in Ramsgate.
The news comes after a series of controversies at the site, including the sale of drugs by guards, outbreaks of infectious diseases such as diphtheria, the stranding of asylum seekers in central London after their release from Manston and the death of an asylum seeker placed there. Saturday.
The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has confirmed he is investigating the death of the man, who arrived in the UK on a small boat on November 12. His contact details have not yet been released and it is understood the Home Office is still trying to contact his next of kin.
Alongside this investigation, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) received a referral from the Home Office regarding the death. He told the Guardian it was too early to say whether this would lead to an investigation.
Such inquiries involving the Home Office are rare. The latest was in 2018 following the death of a 23-year-old Sudanese man at a car wash in Newport, where he fell from a height following an immigration raid.
The Kent Coroner has confirmed receipt of a referral in the case and is in the early stages of the inquest.
Human rights campaigners have raised concerns that the deceased man was being held unlawfully in Manston at the time of his death. Small boat arrivals that are taken to Manston are only supposed to be held there for 24 hours. In exceptional circumstances, this period can be extended up to five days, but the man arrived on November 12 and died on November 19.
The campaign group Action Against Detention and Deportation said it was concerned that he had been detained ‘far longer than the legal limit of 24 hours’. A spokesperson for the group said: “This first death was entirely predictable. There is ample evidence that Manston is unsuitable for human habitation and falls far short of minimum standards for accommodation, healthcare and protection.
The Red Cross was running a pilot project to support newly arrived asylum seekers on small boats near Western Jet Foil two days a week from August to early October. It is understood he has raised concerns with the Home Office about Western Jet Foil and Manston.
According to evidence provided by the Scottish Refugee Council to the Independent Commission of Inquiry into Asylum in Scotland published earlier this month, 142 asylum seekers lost their lives in the UK between April 2016 and August 2022.
Emma Ginn, director of the charity Medical Justice, which works to support the health of people in immigration detention, said: ‘The Home Secretary has been repeatedly warned that the detention of vulnerable people beyond of the 24-hour legal limit in the terrible conditions at Manston has been detrimental, endangering the health of thousands of men, women and children. So many questions and concerns about health care provision remain unanswered.
Maddie Harris of the Humans for Rights Network said: “Unaccompanied children who were recently detained at Manston told us details of the appalling lack of medical care they were subjected to while in detention.
“A child told us that two weeks ago, while being held there, he saw a person’s health deteriorate to the point that he thought he was going to die. He and other inmates there repeatedly told the guards that this man was very sick and needed an ambulance immediately.
“He told us that for almost two days they did not call for an ambulance, despite him and many others crying out for help for the guards to do so. He was eventually rushed to hospital by ambulance.
The Home Office has been approached for comment.