Up to 450 migrants detained 'illegally' in UK, Home Office emails reveal

Up to 450 migrants detained 'illegally' in UK, Home Office emails reveal
Hundreds of people in the UK have been 'illegally' detained in removal centres as processing centres become overcrowded and the Home Office struggles to house asylum seekers in adequate accommodation, internal government emails have revealed.
3 min read
21 December, 2022
The UK Home Office blamed the rise in small boat arrivals rather than the backlog in processing cases [source: Getty]

Hundreds of people have been "illegally" detained for extended periods of time in UK immigration removal centres, leaked Home Office emails have revealed. 

Up to 450 people were placed in detention removal centres due to an "overflow" at the migrant processing facility Manston, a former military base used to temporarily house asylum seekers until reports of widespread overcrowding and mistreatment led to its shutdown. 

The UK government was made aware of people's prolonged and extrajudicial detention in removal centres as early as 4 November, as shown by a chain of internal correspondence obtained via a Freedom of Information request by the BBC. However, little was done to urgently rectify the situation. 

The Home Office emails said detention at the removal centres was "no longer legal" and called for the 450 people to be moved to hotels "ASAP". 

Typically, asylum seekers who arrive in the UK are held in processing centres for 24 hours. Then, they are sent to alternative Home Office accommodation, which is usually hotels. 

However, given the growing number of asylum claims and the mounting backlog of Home Office cases, there have been repeated incidents of families held in what should be temporary accommodation or detention centres for over a month or more. 

Manston, for example, at one point was home to around 4,000 migrants in several large tents, many of whom had been there far longer than the expected one day’s stay. 

By mid-November, the site was closed following widespread controversy over the outbreak of disease, stories of cramped unhygienic conditions and reports of disproportionate violence used by security staff. 

The UK’s shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said this latest revelation concerning prolonged stays at removal centres demonstrates that the "Home Office has lost control of the system. 

"[The Home Office] knew that they were breaking the law and [this lays] bare how their chaotic failure to plan led to this situation," she said. 

These reports come the same week as a UK high court ruled that deportation from the UK to Rwanda is lawful. Forced removals to Africa have been championed by the Home Office to deter "illegal" migration. 

Refugee charities condemned the scheme for infringing on people’s human rights and failing to address the central problem which is a lack of safe legal routes for individuals wishing to claim asylum in the UK.