UK migrant crisis: Controversy-hit Kent migrant centre cleared and residents moved into hotels

The criticism-hit migrant centre in Kent that was housing thousands of asylum seekers who had arrived in the UK on small boats has been cleared and residents moved into hotel accommodation while their cases are considered.

The Manston processing centre, where asylum seekers were supposed to stay for no more than 24 hours, has been dogged with controversy in recent weeks after it emerged the facility was operating at more than double its capacity. Some families had been sleeping on mats on the floor for weeks, and had experienced outbreaks of illnesses, including diphtheria.

An investigation has been launched after one resident died on Friday. He is believed to have taken unwell and was taken to hospital, although Home Office officials said it was not yet known if he had contracted any form of infectious illness.

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The centre, which saw thousands of people sleeping in tents in the autumn amid overcrowding, is designed to accommodate those who arrive across the Channel on small boats for around 24 hours while they undergo security and identity checks. A stay of up to five days had been officially permitted in exceptional circumstances.

Families are seen at Manston airfield migrant processing centre earlier this month. Picture: Getty Images
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The former military base has a capacity of 1,000 to 1,600 people, but is believed to have housed as many as 4,000 people at one time.

However, it is understood the centre will not remain empty and is set to operate as “business as usual” in the near future – which is likely to mean as its original use as temporary processing centre.

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In most cases, the migrants then move to a hotel or designated hostel. Improvement works are understood to be planned to be carried out before more people are processed through the site.

The number of people detected arriving in small boats to the UK has increased dramatically from around 300 in 2018 to nearly 30,000 last year. By the end of September 2022, provisional figures already showed more than 30,000 people had been detected arriving via this route, suggesting the final figures for this year are likely to be far higher.

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However, recent bad weather has seen the number of crossings dip slightly.

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