Ministers ‘considering plans to allow migrants to be held for up to 96 hours’

Ministers are reportedly considering changing the law to allow Channel migrants to be held at the Manston processing centre for up to 96 hours.

The change would allow migrants to be held for three or four days – up from the current statutory limit of 24 hours – to give officials more flexibility in the event of another surge in Channel arrivals, according to The Daily Telegraph.

Almost 44,000 migrants have crossed the Channel to the UK so far this year.

The Ministry of Defence said a further 426 people were detected in eight boats on Wednesday.

The latest crossings take the provisional total for 2022 to date to 43,926, according to PA news agency analysis of Government figures.

Meanwhile Rishi Sunak and Albanian prime minister Edi Rama agreed “more needed to be done to tackle illegal immigration and organised crime together”.

The Telegraph says ministers are considering amending the “short term holding facility rules”, which limit the amount of time an asylum seeker can be held, via a statutory instrument in Parliament.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Staff across the Home Office have worked tirelessly under challenging circumstances to source alternative accommodation as quickly as possible for those who have been processed at Manston.

“The site remains at acceptable capacity levels and improvements continue to be made to ensure it is well-resourced to process migrants safely and securely.

“The global migration crisis continues to place an unprecedented and unsustainable strain on our asylum system, which is why we remain focused on deterring illegal migration and disrupting the criminal gangs responsible for these dangerous crossings.”

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale, whose constituency covers the Manston centre, told The Telegraph: “I don’t want anybody to be detained any longer than necessary but if you have a sudden influx and have to move them on, in certain circumstances it might take more than 24 hours especially if they have to be screened to ensure they have not got any infections.”

The former military airfield near Ramsgate has been dogged by controversy recently, with ministers coming under fire over the conditions.

At its peak in early November, the Manston facility housed 4,000 people – at least double its 1,600 capacity – in what was branded a “breach of humane conditions”.

It has since been cleared, however there has been fresh criticism of the facility following an outbreak of diphtheria among asylum seekers, with the Home Office revealing a man may have died from the highly contagious disease.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said there had been an “increase” in cases of diphtheria reported among asylum seekers arriving in the UK, with 50 identified as of November 25, including children. The figure was 39 on November 10.

The Government said any asylum seekers with symptoms of diphtheria will be put into isolation while they are treated, and all migrants are being offered a vaccine on arrival in the UK.

The Prime Minister spoke with Mr Rama on Thursday afternoon, a Downing Street spokesman said, adding: “The PM acknowledged the positive contribution of the Albanian community to life in the UK, but both leaders agreed that more needed to be done to tackle illegal immigration and tackle organised crime together.

“They discussed plans to step up co-operation to address shared challenges, including closing loopholes that are preventing the rapid return of failed asylum seekers.

“(They) look forward to working together to deal with those issues and deepen the broader UK-Albania relationship.”