Unaccompanied minors seeking asylum said they were held in the Manston government processing center for 19 days, forced to sleep seated due to lack of space, and developed scabies at the invaded site.
Asylum seekers are expected to be detained at the site for only 24 hours, but the short-term facility has turned into a “humanitarian crisis on British soil” as the Home Office failed to book adequate hotel accommodation.
A 16-year-old Sudanese said he would use leftover food boxes as a sleeping pad and said he was not given a change of clothes for the first 18 days he was there, despite his clothes being damp from the Channel crossing. .
He said his mother thought he was dead because he was not allowed with his phone to contact her while he was in Manston, Kent. Another unaccompanied Iraqi child claimed he was only given a small hamburger for his first day and a half and was scolded for asking for more food.
Children were originally treated as adults by border officials, but are now mostly in the care of local authorities. In one case, the child is still in a hotel, having been dropped off by Manston just three days ago. The reports, collected by the Refugee Council and Humans for Rights Network, also reveal concerns about disease control at the site where cases of scabies and diphtheria have been reported.
On a recent visit to the center, 150 people slept on a plywood floor in a marquee with only a few heaters, said Andy Baxter, assistant secretary general of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA), The independent.
Mr. Baxter said he was concerned that Manston residents were being illegally detained and said the POA would write to the Home Office to make sure its members have no personal responsibility when implementing government policies. .
The Interior Ministry said it was unable to investigate the “unsubstantiated claims” but took all allegations extremely seriously.
3,007 asylum seekers were registered in Manston on Saturday, but over the weekend the number peaked at around 4,000. Some people were held there for up to 32 days.
A 16-year-old, who arrived in the UK on 9 October, said: “We have been told several times: ‘You are in a prison and you do not have the right to choose what to eat, and you must eat what we offer you’.”
The boy said he suffered from severe headaches and vomiting but could not see a doctor. He added: “Every time I went to register my name to see the doctor, they say you have to be patient, we only have one doctor and the number is very large.
“Specially [since] a skin disease spread during my stay and I was very afraid of being infected with it ”.
He said he was “very scared” at the camp. “I remember the torture I suffered in the camps in Libya, where I was detained with my older brother. Every day in this center I slept and cried. I asked them from day one to return my phone to call my mom and tell her I arrived and I’m safe, but they refused, “he said.
“You have to help them,” he said, adding that the people inside Manston need medical attention and there are few warm places to sleep.
A controversial Iranian child, who left Manston in early October, said he was forced to change his age when he arrived in Dover.
“They told us, ‘you have to change your date of birth’ to get old. “If you get older than your date of birth, we’ll put you on the bus and you’ll leave right away,” she said.
“Because I was struggling, I was very cold, I told them whatever you decided to wear, they should have done it, I just wanted to get out. They aged me and then they took me to Manston and there were 150 or 200 people there. There wasn’t enough sleeping space, there wasn’t enough food, we sat all night.
He continued: “I had scabies in this place and I showed it [it] to doctors. They just told me not to scratch it. After that, they took me to a hotel near Heathrow.
“The worst place was Manston,” he said.
An Iraqi, under the age of 18, who had been to Manston, said he had not received food for a day and a half and was therefore only given a hamburger.
“Sometimes they gave me a cookie and when I asked for something more they would yell at me and scold me,” he said.
“They kept me in a room alone for three days, they told me I had the coronavirus, but it wasn’t true, I didn’t have the coronavirus. I had some spots and they told me it was a sign of coronavirus “.
He continued: “I would like no one else to experience what we experience.”
Cases of scabies, diphtheria and MRSA have been reported at the site and unrest at the center has also been reported. In a recent 24-hour period, 17 interventions on the use of force were carried out. These can range from a staff member taking a resident’s arm to him applying restraint techniques.
Mr. Baxter said the number of surgeries should set off “alarm bells” and that residents have fashioned guns with toothbrushes and cutlery, probably for their own protection.
Manston now has eight confirmed cases of scabies and another case that was moved from the camp tested positive for diphtheria, Baxter said, and the POA is calling for mandatory inmate testing on arrival and departure.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said Monday she was working “vigorously” to find alternative sites for asylum seekers following reports of overcrowding in Manston.
“I have had regular operational meetings with frontline officials and have vigorously searched for alternative sites, but I have to be honest, this takes time and there are many obstacles.
“I have never ignored legal advice, as a former Attorney General I know the importance of considering legal advice,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior said: “The protection and well-being of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum is our top priority.
“Children are at risk when asylum-seeking adults claim to be children or children are unfairly treated as adults. All those claiming to be unaccompanied minors are age-rated by officials. Suggestions that border force officials have asked asylum seekers to lie about their age are unfounded speculation. “