United Kingdom: at the heart of a controversy over the reception conditions for migrants, the Manston center was evacuated

The reception center in Manston, in the south of the UK, is now empty. The structure was evacuated after having repeatedly found itself at the heart of controversy in recent weeks due to the overcrowding of the premises and the living conditions of the exiles.

It had been for several weeks at the heart of a controversy over the living conditions of the exiles who lived there. The migrant reception center in Manston, in the south-east of England, was finally completely evacuated, the British government said on Tuesday (November 22).

“There are currently no people housed on the site and improvements continue to be made to (…) process migrants safely,” a government spokesman said in a statement on Tuesday.

The centre, located in Kent, brings together migrants who arrive in the UK via the English Channel on small boats. With the increase in the number of crossings – more than 42,000 since the beginning of the year, a record – it had become overcrowded.

>> To read: Channel crossings: new agreement between Paris and London

More than 4,000 people were accommodated there until a few weeks ago for a capacity of 1,600 placesand elected officials and associations have denounced catastrophic sanitary conditions and a length of stays that stretched, in what is nevertheless supposed to be a transit center.

Distress letter

The image of a young migrant running towards the gates of the center to put a poignant letter to journalists, in which she denounced the conditions of the stay, made the headlines last month.

“We don’t feel well”, alerted the young author of the letter. “Some of us are very sick,” she continued in broken English. “We’re like in prison. We have no phone, no money […] We want to talk to you but they don’t even let us go out”, she said again. The young woman also pointed out that she is far from being the only minor in the centre: “There are a lot of children here. They shouldn’t be here. They should be in school, not in jail.”

A man who was housed in the center also died on Saturday, to the hospital. He had been hospitalized after “feeling bad”. The cause of his death has not been made public.

Interior Minister Suella Braverman was held responsible for the situation in the overcrowded centre. According to the British press, she would have sought to limit the use of hotels to accommodate these migrants, ignoring the warnings of officials of her ministry on the illegal nature of such a blockage, which she denied.

>> To read: In London, police are investigating cases of sexual assaults on underage exiles in a hotel

“Temporary Detention Center”

The controversy was such that the ministry announced its intention to quickly relocate migrants to hotels. “Manston is designed to be a temporary detention centre,” a spokesman for the Prime Minister said on Tuesday. “Obviously there were urgent challenges, particularly after the attack on another center, which had increased the number” of people welcomed, he added.

Another reception center, near Dover, was indeed attacked by jets of incendiary devices end of October. Following this incident, the occupants of the center had been transferred to that of Manston. The police subsequently qualified this attack as a terrorist act.

The UK has been dealing with a record influx of migrants arriving through the English Channel since the start of the year, but no arrivals have been detected by the Ministry of Defense in the past seven days.

In an attempt to curb these arrivals, London signed a new agreement with France in mid-November to strengthen the means dedicated to the fight against illegal immigration between the two countries.

United Kingdom: at the heart of a controversy over the reception conditions for migrants, the Manston center was evacuated