UK

Kent military base plan for processing migrants 'unworkable and unacceptable'

MP raises concerns in Commons over migrants plan for part of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) site in Manston, Kent.

The military base chosen by the Home Office to process migrants in Kent has been described as an "unworkable and unacceptable" proposal by a Conservative MP.

The Home Office confirmed part of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) site in Manston, Kent will be used as a "processing site for illegal migrants by January 2022".

The site will be able to hold people "for a maximum of five days while their security and initial asylum processing checks are undertaken".

But Sir Roger Gale, MP for the constituency, told the House of Commons the site was "inappropriate".

Asking an urgent question, the MP for North Thanet said "there is no indication as to how the site will accommodate these human beings, will be made secure or what facilities will be made available, other than statutory (rules) on the site medical services".

"I have identified at least one clean, comfortable and secure operational vessel that can, if commissioned, meet the immediate and longer term need and I'm advised that there are others available," he added.

"I will be grateful if the minister will now instruct the team to do as I've already requested, put this unacceptable and unworkable proposal on hold and properly, thoroughly and swiftly examine the viable alternatives.

"And, if while doing so, he will conduct the consultations that ought to have been held weeks ago."

Tom Pursglove, a Home Office minister, confirmed a "consultation is ongoing", saying: "I would make the point again, we are having to respond to these challenges at pace."

Sir Roger was not the only MP who raised concerns about the welfare of migrants at the site.

Watch: Afghans evacuated to UK re-homed in vacant military housing.

The SNP's Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) said a cross-party report "called on the Government to end its military-style accommodation for asylum seekers, which it described as fundamentally unsuitable for survivors of war, torture or serious violence".

"Why is the Home Office ignoring these warnings from parliamentary colleagues?" he asked.

He added that the Government had "previously ignored warnings" of conditions at Napier Barracks, which "inevitably" led to a coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Stephens also asked if parts of the MOD site in Kent "are currently condemned as a result of asbestos being on the site?"

Mr Pursglove said he "wouldn't consider that we are ignoring concerns that are raised", adding the Government would "act entirely appropriately with safety at the forefront" in regards to asbestos at the site.