Up to 450 migrants detained 'illegally' in UK, Home Office emails reveal
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.
"We're disappointed that the High Court has found the removal of refugees to an autocratic state which tortures and kills people is lawful. The Rwanda policy is brutal and harmful and we will now consider an appeal against today's judgment."— Detention Action (@DetentionAction) December 19, 2022
James Wilson, Deputy Director, DA
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.