Home Office made ‘massive error’ leaving migrants at London’s Victoria Station, claims charity worker

Home Office made ‘massive error’ leaving migrants at London’s Victoria Station, claims charity worker

The Home Office has admitted to making a “massive error” after a group of asylum seekers were left at Victoria station without accomodation, a charity volunteer has said.

According to reports, a group of some 40 migrants were transported from Manston, the Kent processing facility which is facing severe overcrowding, and taken to London to stay with friends or family on Tuesday.

However, around 11 of them had nowhere to go on arrival - forcing them to flag down staff at Victoria train station for help.

Danial Abbas, from the Under One Sky homelessness charity, said the men were left “highly distressed, disorientated, lost” and with “nowhere to go”.

Mr Abbas told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "They were simply just turning to anyone and everyone on the street to help.

"We were almost glad that we were there at the right place at the right time to provide them with the sort of care and love and compassion that we did."

Asked if he had spoken to anyone at the Home Office about the situation, he said: "I personally was in touch with a gentleman from the Home Office that whole evening. Very quickly a solution was found.

"He immediately, you know, put his hands up on behalf of the Home Office and said 'this has been a massive error, let's get this sorted ASAP'."

Volunteers with the charity were forced to run to a nearby Primark to fetch suitable clothes and to buy food at a McDonald’s, he said.

The incident comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak admitted the migrant crisis is a “serious and escalating problem” and admitted that “not enough” asylum claims are being processed.

While immigration minister Robert Jenrick admitted the Home Office is facing a judicial review over the conditions at the Manston processing centre.

However, speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Sunak insisted the Government is getting a grip on the situation and said Home Secretary Suella Braverman was getting on top of overcrowding at Manston.

One member of the group recounting the ordeal, a 29-year-old economics student from Iraq, told the Guardian: “We were told we should go to our families or friends. I don’t have any family in the UK.

“I asked what should I do for the night, it’s cold. He [the bus driver] said: you need to go.”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman (PA Wire)
Home Secretary Suella Braverman (PA Wire)

A British Transport Police spokesperson said its officers were called just after 10.30pm on Tuesday night to a report of asylum seekers looking for assistance.

The 11 men, who had allegedly been told they would be put up in a hotel in London, were eventually taken by taxi to Norwich to be placed in a hotel.

The Home Office declined to comment on the incident when contacted by the Standard.

Hundreds of asylum seekers have been rapidly moved out of the Manston camp in the past two days amid heavy criticism of overcrowded conditions at the immigration centre, where this weekend about 4,000 people were being held at a site designed for 1,600.

A bruising PMQs on Wednesday largely centred on the migration crisis, with Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer saying responsibility for a “broken” asylum system lay with the Tories, and that just 4% of the asylum claims made by people who crossed the English Channel in small boats last year have been processed.

He said: “They’re only taking half the number of asylum decisions that they used to. That’s why the system is broken."

Mr Sunak also faces increasing pressure from his own side over the migrant crisis, with one Tory MP, Craig Mackinlay, warning there could be a resurgence of a “Ukip-style party" if the Conservatives do not get a handle on the crisis.

Military personnel were involved in efforts on Tuesday to help move migrants away from Manston, where overcrowded conditions were described in shocking terms by inspectors.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the numbers at the site had “fallen substantially" on Tuesday.

Sir Roger Gale, Tory MP for North Thanet, which includes the site, welcomed the development, having clashed with Ms Braverman about her handling of the chaos at Manston, wherer protests were held outside by campaigners on Wednesday evening.

He pointedly praised Mr Jenrick for “rectifying the mistakes that have been made by others", adding "this must never be allowed to happen again".

Four senior MPs have piled further pressure on the Home Secretary to explain how the Government will get to grips with the migrant crisis.

The parliamentary committee chairs have jointly written to Ms Braverman calling for clarity on how the Home Office will cut the number of treacherous small boat crossings and reduce "as a matter of urgency" the backlog in cases currently within the asylum system.

The letter is signed by the chairs of the Home Affairs Committee, Justice Committee, Joint Committee on Human Rights and Women and Equalities Committee, and requests a response by November 16.

Mr Jenrick told Sky News that legal action has begun after reports of severe overcrowding at the centre in Kent.

He told The Take with Sophy Ridge programme: “I believe we have received the initial contact for a judicial review.

“That’s not unusual, this is a highly litigious area of policy but of course, as the minister responsible I want to make sure everything we do is conducted appropriately and within the law.”

On Wednesday afternoon, a young girl threw a bottle containing a letter over the perimeter fence to a PA news agency photographer, claiming there were pregnant women and sick detainees at the facility.

The note, written in broken English and addressed to "journalists, organisations, everyone" appeared to suggest 50 families had been held there for more than 30 days.

Meanwhile Albania demanded the British government stop “discriminating” against Albanians to “excuse policy failures” during the migration crisis.

Albanian prime minister Edi Rama called for “mutual respect” on Wednesday as he hit out at the “insane” and “easy rhetoric” of targeting his citizens for UK border failures.

Ms Braverman has frequently singled out Albanian asylum seekers after their numbers crossing the Channel in small boats increased.

Mr Rama said the UK should “fight the crime gangs of all nationalities and stop discriminating” against “Albanians to excuse policy failures”.

“Albania is not a rich country and was for a very long time a victim of empires, we never had our own,” Mr Rama continued.

“We have a duty to fight crime at home and are doing so resolutely, as cooperating closely with others too. Ready to work closer with UK but facts are crucial. So is mutual respect.”

His remarks were a blow to Braverman’s hopes of agreeing a deal with the Balkan country that would enable Albanian migrants who cross the Channel in small boats to be deported within days of arrival.