‘We want to get a grip’: Minister ‘not happy’ over conditions at Manston migrant centre

'We want to get a grip': Minister 'not happy' over conditions at Manston migrant centre

A minister has admitted that the Manston asylum processing centre is not operating legally, telling Sky News the government wants to “get a grip” on the situation.

Asked whether he was happy that asylum seekers were being detained illegally, climate minister Graham Stuart told Sky News: “Obviously not. None of us are comfortable with it. We want it tackled, we want to get a grip, that’s exactly what the home secretary is focused on.”

Although Manston is meant to hold 1,600 people, estimates suggested 4,000 were being housed at the facility earlier this week.

Migrants are meant to stay there for a maximum of 24 hours while they’re processed before being sent to hotels or homes while their asylum claims are processed, but some have been kept there for as long as a month.

The Home Office is facing legal action over conditions at the former RAF airfield in Kent – as reports suggest asylum seekers were removed from the site and “abandoned” at London Victoria station.

Mr Stuart’s admission comes after immigration minister Robert Jenrick implied the facility was not operating legally, telling Sky News that he expects it will “be returned to a well-functioning and legally compliant site very rapidly”.

Mr Stuart sought to blame an “unacceptable surge” in small boat crossings for the problem, adding that the “system is struggling to cope”.

“It is not where we want it to be right now and we are simply looking to balance that out, thousands more hotel rooms have been sorted out but it’s unacceptable to the British people and we need to do more to tackle the traffickers in what is an unprecedented surge in illegal immigration,” he added.

But he conceded “unfortunate language” had been used over the migrant crisis, after the government was told to stop blaming Albanians for the migrant crisis by the country’s prime minister.

Mr Stuart said: “I’m grateful for the work we’re doing with the Albanians, they have been sending senior police officers over so as to speed up processing, we’ve got an expedited system to return Albanians if it turns out they are not legitimate asylum seekers.

“So we are trying to work in co-operation, but clearly there’s pressure. You can see it from councillors, you can see it from members of parliaments, you can hear it from people and journalists around the country.

“It can lead to language which is sometimes unfortunate and it is worth putting on record our gratitude to the Albanian government for their co-operation in working to sort this out.”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has singled Albanians out several times over the past week as the numbers coming from the southern European country in small boats across the Channel has soared – and therefore the amount at Manston.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has also said Albanians are “abusing” the Modern Slavery Act to delay deportation attempts.

But the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has had enough, and tweeted on Wednesday that the British government needs to stop using Albanian immigrants to “excuse policy failures”.

Ms Braverman is under mounting pressure to get a handle on the migrant crisis.

Council chiefs in Kent have warned the county is at “breaking point” as a result of the situation, with the potential for disorder at Manston and the risk of far-right violence.

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