Sue Reid sees the diphtheria and knife fights in jam-packed Home Office centre from hell in Kent
This troubling photo reveals the first taste of life in Britain for thousands of migrants who have illegally crossed the Channel to slip into the UK.
At an overcrowded Home Office camp in Kent, disgruntled young men are penned in behind steel barriers outside a marquee .
They live cheek-by-jowl in these tents, with washing draped over fences, and empty food containers litter the ground.
The scenes are reminiscent of the former ‘Jungle’ shanty town in Calais.
On Thursday, when the picture was taken, whistleblowers from the camp told the Daily Mail: ‘Fights have broken out between Albanians and Eritreans using sharpened combs from their Home Office washbags as weapons.’
Drone footage of migrants seen on Thursday at Manston Processing Centre in Kent. The scenes are reminiscent of the former ‘Jungle’ shanty town in Calais, writes Sue Reid
They added: ‘A small Army detachment is inside to help keep order. We have been told riot police are on standby to enter if the migrants kick off in the next few days.
‘It is a tinder box. Migrants have attacked Border Force officials and security staff, who are scared and outnumbered.’
The closed camp, at a former RAF base in Manston, is the main processing centre for the clandestine boat migrants before they are sent to hotels or hostels around Britain.
Opened nearly a year ago, it is meant to house a maximum of 1,600 and keep inmates for a few days while their identities are checked before rehousing.
However, numbers have now touched 3,000 following the surge in migrants crossing the Channel this year. Border Force staff have warned of ‘catastrophic’ overcrowding.
An immigration chief told MPs that conditions are ‘wretched’ when he made an inspection visit on Monday.
The Mail can today reveal that the dismal and deteriorating state of the camp has prompted traffickers to change tactics to avoid their migrant customers being sent to Manston.
An advert posted on Albanian websites yesterday told those waiting in Dunkirk: ‘Do not put your life in danger. Journey on speedboat in 40 minutes from Belgium to the UK. The best price tomorrow and after tomorrow. We secure safe crossing not to stay one day in [Manston] camp.’
When our reporter posed as a migrant hoping to travel, the advertiser was sent a text message saying the cost of the speedboat trip is £11,000 and ‘100 per cent successful’. He added that Albanians reached Britain by speedboat from Belgium on Thursday and Friday a week ago. ‘It is under a one-hour journey,’ he said.
The processing centre is meant to house a maximum of 1,600 and keep inmates for a few days while their identities are checked before rehousing
In another remarkable development this week, the Home Office is believed to have suggested erecting marquees in London parks to house migrants after regional councils refused an emergency appeal from the Government to take in a bigger share to relieve the escalating Manston debacle. The Home Office yesterday insisted the plan was no longer under consideration.
Our informants said: ‘The whole camp [Manston] is unruly and dangerous. Border Force and security teams working inside cannot cope with the volume of people. Things are getting worse by the day. Many migrants have absconded.
‘Mini-riots have happened when migrants arriving on boats at Dover, before even getting to Manston, have refused to eat kebabs that were not halal.
‘In the incident a few months ago, Border Force, immigration officials and charity volunteers were spat at, verbally abused and the food was thrown on the floor. As such, any sympathy was lost forever. There is now a culture of indifference, even hostility, between Manston staff and migrants which is making things worse.
‘It is dawning on these people that life in this country is not what they were told by the traffickers and it makes them angry. They have paid out money for the crossing, but realise there is little hope of their migrant application being processed quickly, let alone accepted.’
A group of migrants being brought into Dover Marina by Border Force volunteers during rough conditions on Thursday
Currently, 100,000 asylum seekers are waiting to have their claims heard, with the number growing daily. A tiny percentage of the cases were processed last year leaving a huge backlog of migrants in hotels, hostels and temporary accommodation around Britain at a cost to taxpayers of £7million a day.
The informants said there is a ‘deliberate conspiracy of silence’ about Manston by the Government. ‘Everyone working there has to sign the Official Secrets Act and they are afraid of telling the true story for fear of ending up in court.’
As the Mail investigated the camp’s treatment of migrants this week, we were approached by another whistleblower. They said that 150 people are billeted in each one of an array of canvas marquees hastily rented by the Home Office from events’ companies this autumn as numbers grew.
‘Some, to try and get fresh air, cut themselves out with the sharpened wash bag combs. A few ran away through the perimeter fences altogether.’
The whistleblower added: ‘Migrants are now being allowed into pens outside the marquees. They are watched over by security staff in yellow high-viz jackets who could easily be outflanked if a kerfuffle started.’
Another person with links to the camp revealed: ‘One Albanian made his way to a nearby McDonald’s, arriving there in his Home Office regulation slip-on sandals. Migrants are made to wear them to deter escapes from Manston because they are so difficult to walk in. But this fellow got to the cafe, was pointing at a screen to try to order a burger, when staff alerted the camp and Army squaddies came and hauled him back.’
Around 38,000 boat migrants have arrived in Kent so far this year, 12,000 of them Albanian. That country has lost between 1 and 2 per cent of its male teenage and adult population to the UK, government ministers admitted this week.
Many Albanian illegals, fearful of being sent to Manston and being held there for weeks or months, are avoiding both Border Force officials and lifeboat rescue vessels so they can slip undetected on to UK beaches. Albanian traffickers based here then pick them up in getaway cars for black-market work, including at cannabis farms, to repay debts for the £4,000 dinghy rides.
As the Mail revealed earlier this week, Dover district council has warned residents in the suburb of Aycliffe to lock their doors after a 16-year-old Albanian, who had recently landed on the beaches, entered a house last weekend and accosted Sue Doyle, 59, a lone woman asking for money, a phone and help tracing a ‘getaway’ car waiting in the vicinity to drive him to Manchester.
Her neighbour, alerted by Miss Doyle, raced into the house, found him hiding in the bedroom, and ‘grabbed him by the scruff of the neck’. The migrant wrestled free, but by then police had arrived and took him away for questioning.
They told a surprised Miss Doyle ‘no offence had been committed’. Meanwhile, at crowded Manston, infections including the skin disease scabies and potentially lethal diphtheria have broken out.
This week, ambulances were seen entering and leaving the site. Migrants told us: ‘We got crisps and packet croissants to eat. We could not sleep because we were given no mattresses or pillow and just a thin blanket each. It was demeaning treatment. We think it is deliberate to put us off coming. We lay on the wooden floor of a brick building with 300 inside.
‘There were so many, so close, that there was one narrow two foot wide corridor to walk through to get to the toilets. We were scared of getting ill and some, including a young Albanian girl, were very sick. But no one called a doctor.’
This week the Home Office said: ‘The continued rise in dangerous small boat crossings is causing an unprecedented strain on our asylum system. Manston is resourced to process migrants securely and we will provide alternative accommodation as soon as possible.
‘We urge anyone who is thinking about leaving a safe country and risking their lives at the hands of people smugglers [on Channel boats] to reconsider.’
As things stand this weekend, the traffickers are outwitting the British Government, and that plea seems unlikely to be heeded.