LONDON: Migrants crossing the Channel by boat are being held in inadequate processing centers on arrival, UK Border Force staff have warned.
The Immigration Services Union, which represents immigration officers, said a temporary facility in Kent used to process asylum seekers was not fit for purpose, The Independent reported on Saturday.
ISU professional officer Lucy Moreton said: “You have people who have been through a very difficult journey. They are wet, they need to be warm, they need to be protected. We don’t have hot food or hot water, we can’t feed them or wash them.
Another facility, Tug Haven, which closed last month, was branded “inadequate” by British prison authorities last year.
The new facility in Kent, Western Jet Foil, a former hangar, is “made up of several containers and is lined up like an Eastern European train station, with wooden benches bolted to the floor”, Moreton said.
“If you need to lie down, you have to lie on the floor between the benches, or lie on the benches themselves, which are narrow and backless.
“We don’t want to keep migrants in these conditions, but we simply have no choice. We cannot throw them in the street.
Bridget Chapman of the Kent Refugee Action Network said she was “increasingly concerned” about the “appalling and shameful” conditions migrants are subjected to upon arrival in Britain.
“After the damning report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons at the end of last year, we should have seen significant and urgent improvements, but things are clearly deteriorating,” she added.
“The Home Office seems to think the harsh conditions give the right perspective, but in reality those arriving need care, kindness and humanity.”
The Home Office is opening a permanent processing site, Manston, which is designed to accommodate arrivals for up to five days.
However, Moreton said the site was ‘not ready for use’, adding: ‘It is so far short of minimum health and safety requirements and has no fire extinguishers, first aid kits or of defibrillators.
“The exits are not correctly signposted because the building had been modified from its previous layout. There is only one women’s toilet on site, no disabled toilets and only four men’s toilets, and no provision for disposal of sanitary products.
To tackle deteriorating conditions at migrant processing centers in the UK, the Home Office must “properly resource” the Border Force, Moreton said.
“We need to identify the people who don’t have the right to be here and deport them, and if they have the right to be here, regularize their status and let them continue their lives. Don’t leave them in limbo for the six to 10 years it may take now.
A government spokesman said: ‘We are in regular conversation with the ISU who this week acknowledged that the Home Office is addressing its historic issues regarding the readiness of the Manston site. These comments do not reflect their current position.
“It is wrong to say that migrants sleep on the floor at Western Jet Foil. At Manston, we have enough toilets on site for the number of staff and have catering facilities in place to provide food and water to staff, while additional kitchen facilities are being installed.
“We will continue to bring rescued people from the English Channel to the most suitable port, including Dover.”