Migrants arriving in UK with petrol burns after crossing Channel – watchdog

·3-min read

Migrants are arriving in the UK soaking wet and with petrol burns after crossing the Channel, according to a watchdog.

Chief inspector of prisons Charlie Taylor described the condition some people are in when they are brought ashore in Kent as he raised concerns about the Home Office’s “haphazard” arrangements for Channel migrants.

He told reporters: “People are arriving wet, sometimes with petrol burns. People are still having to occasionally spend a night in a tent without proper bedding.”

Mr Taylor, who will be tasked with scrutinising conditions on Rwanda deportation flights if they go ahead, also said families were “crammed into facilities where some basic safeguards were not in place”.

He likened the Kent Intake Unit to a “hospital waiting room with bright neon lights on all night”.

He said inspectors came across a safeguarding case where a man who had a conviction for a relatively serious offence was spending the night in the facility with children and families.

In an overview of inspections carried out over the last year, Mr Taylor said: “I remain very concerned about the haphazard arrangements in place for those who have crossed the Channel in small boats.

“Promised facilities in Dover had not materialised when we inspected in November 2021, and we found that some families were sleeping on the floor in flimsy tents with inadequate bedding or crammed into facilities where some basic safeguards were not in place.”

Given the growing number of arrivals there has been “insufficient preparation to provide for vulnerable adults and children”, he said, adding that he expected “significant improvements” at new facilities being put in place at the disused Manston airfield.

The Ministry of Defence site in Manston
The Ministry of Defence site in Manston (Gareth Fuller/PA)

More than 14,000 migrants have made the crossing so far this year after navigating busy shipping lanes from France in small boats such as dinghies, provisional Government figures show.

In his annual report Mr Taylor also warned of a “flood” of resignations by prison officers in some jails, adding that staff recruitment is “perhaps the biggest challenge facing the prison service”.

The problem had been exacerbated by the “employment of unsuitable candidates who left the service within the first year of taking up the job”, he added.

The watchdog also found young men are being left to lead “long lives of criminality” because of a lack of training and education while behind bars.

Some inmates are still spending 23 hours a day or more locked in their cells despite Covid-19 restrictions being lifted earlier this year, while others are left to watch daytime TV or sleep instead of taking part in classes and activities.

Mr Taylor said there is “no reason why” prisons cannot return to pre-pandemic regimes now restrictions have been lifted.

The Government said it had made “significant improvements” in the way it deals with migrant arrivals and is “adhering to our statutory duties in all aspects”.

The temporary Tug Haven facility closed in January and now there is a “fit for purpose” system for processing arrivals, going through initial checks at Western Jet Foil in Dover port, then on to Manston for “further processing where appropriate”.

“The facilities allow arrivals to be held in a safe and secure environment where any safeguarding and vulnerability issues can be dealt with,” a spokesman said.

The Government also insisted it was “making progress to rehabilitate prisoners; 50% more offenders are finding work shortly after release than a year ago – reducing reoffending and making our streets safer”.

Some 4,000 more staff have been hired in the last four years and there are plans to increase the number of officers in prisons by 5,000 by the mid-2020s, a spokesman added.

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