Serious challenges remain for migrants arriving in Kent by small boats

Read the report: short-term holding facilities at Western Jet Foil, Lydd Airport and Manston

HM Inspectorate of Prisons has today published a report from an inspection on Manston in Kent, carried out in July 2022.

Manston is a non-residential facility designed to hold detainees for a maximum of 24 hours while their initial immigration paperwork is processed. While there is access to food, water, showers and toilets, there are no beds and there is no access to fresh air or exercise.

The report recognises the suitability of the accommodation at Manston for short-term detention at the time of our visit, and the efforts of staff to create a calm and even welcoming atmosphere. But it also highlights failings in processes that undermine the resilience of the centre for dealing with increasing volumes of detainees.

Short-term holding centres like Manston are vulnerable to greater fluctuations in the number of detainees they hold than most other places of detention. And while Manston has a good amount of physical accommodation available, at the time of the inspection much of it was out of use because there were not enough staff. Further signs of strain included exhausted detainees sleeping on the floor and some who had been held for more than 30 hours waiting to be processed.

In addition to the pressures on accommodation, the report identified a number of other areas of concern. Detainees’ vulnerability was not always assessed or recorded appropriately: for example, victims of trafficking and people with disabilities – including severe mental health problems – were held at Manston, but they had not been designated as adults at risk. Translation services were not always used to make sure detainees understood what was happening. Some aspects of governance were also weak, especially in safeguarding and health care, and inconsistent practices affected detainees’ welfare and dignity. For example, some were not allowed access to mobile phones to let their families know they were safe, and in some parts of the site they were, inexplicably, not even allowed to close toilet doors fully.

Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons commented:

“Inspectors recognised the work done in setting up the facility at Manston and improvements to Western Jet Foil, but also noted a number of risks. When I visited Manston in September, some of these risks had begun to materialise and I met detainees who had been held for more than four days in a facility that was not designed for overnight stays and in which there was no access to the open air. I was also concerned that there were still no mobile phones available, which meant that many detainees, including some who were very young, had been unable to contact their families.

“Recent intelligence from a number of credible sources, including the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, the Independent Monitoring Boards and staff associations, suggest that the current situation at Manston has significantly deteriorated since our July inspection. We are hearing that detainees are now being held in greater numbers and for much longer periods of time in cramped and uncomfortable conditions, often supervised by staff who have not been suitably trained.

“As a result of these concerns, the Inspectorate is planning a swift return to Manston and will expect to see substantial improvements. In the meantime, the Home Office and its contractors need to get a grip and urgently act on the findings of this report to make sure all detainees are held in safe, decent and humane conditions.

Notes to editors

  1. Read the report Western Jet Foil, Lydd Airport and Manston report, published on 1 November 2022.
  2. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
  3. The inspection included facilities at Western Jet Foil, Lydd Airport and Manston, all of which are short-term holding facilities in Kent. These facilities primarily held migrants who had arrived from France on small boats after undertaking sea crossings from Calais. Western Jet Foil and Lydd Airport functioned as initial points of entry where people underwent initial health checks and were given an opportunity to change out of wet clothes. Manston was a short-term holding facility where immigration documents were issued and some detainees started the asylum screening process.
  4. Home Office data showed that, in the three months to June 2022, 4,161 people had passed through Manston and 636 had been held for more than 24 hours. The longest period of detention recorded was 70 hours.
  5. Lydd Airport was unoccupied at the time of this inspection.
  6. This inspection took place between 25 and 28 July 2022.
  7. HM Inspectorate of Prisons carries out unannounced inspections of places of detention at least every six years, usually every two to three years. This was the first time we had inspected Manston, Western Jet Foil and Lydd Airport.
  8. Please contact if you would like more information.