Scandal-hit Manston centre visited by European torture monitor group

The disease-hit Manston migrant centre in Kent has been visited by a delegation from the European anti-torture watchdog.

The temporary processing centre for recent Channel boat arrivals has been shrouded in scandal after around 4,000 asylum seekers were crammed into facilities, designed to hold 1,600, and following a man’s death that may be linked to infectious disease diphtheria.

Seven staff members form the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) carried out a “rapid reaction visit” to the centre between November 25 to 28.

“The main objective of the visit was to examine the treatment of foreign nationals arriving by small boat in the United Kingdom after crossing the English Channel,” the committee said.

“The delegation visited Western Jet Foil and Manston Short-Term Holding Facility where all such persons are processed and held during the first 24 hours of their arrival in the country. The delegation also visited the Kent Intake Unit in Dover where unaccompanied and separated minors are treated upon their arrival.”

Preliminary observations were given to Immigration Minister Rober Jenrick and Donald Smith, Director for Operations at the Clandestine Channel Threat Command (CCTC) at the Home Office, by the delegation at the end of the visit.

It comes as health authorities tackle a diphtheria outbreak among recent arrivals, with cases jumping from 39 to 50 since November 10.

A man who arrived at the Manston centre on a small boat died in hospital on November 19. His death may have been caused by a diphtheria infection, the Home Office said last week.

Asylum seekers with symptoms are being isolated at the Manston centre, where Home Office medics are on site. All cases have been treaed with antibiotics and some have been vaccinated.

The UK Health Security Agency has indicated that cases are most likely to have become infected before they arrived in the UK.

It was revealed on Tuesday that the Home Office was warned four months before the man’s death that facilities for managing infectious diseases at Manston were “poor”.

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons report, given to the Home Office at the end of July, said “facilities for the management of detainees with Covid or other infectious diseases were poor”.

“Detainees were placed in a claustrophobic portacabin with no clear responsibility assigned for managing their care,” the post-inspection briefing said.

“Paramedic staff were unsure of any guidance, policy or procedure for the management of infectious diseases.”

A Home Office spoksperson said they are “responding to all of the findings” in the report and “continue to work closely with the NHS and UKHSA to support the individuals affected and limit the transmission of infection.”