HM INSPECTORATE OF PRISONS has published its report on an unannounced inspection of the short-term holding facilities at Western Jet Foil, Lydd Airport and Manston by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (25–28 July 2022)

Manston is a non-residential facility designed to hold detainees for a maximum of 24 hours while their initial immigration paperwork is processed. While there is access to food, water, showers and toilets, there are no beds and there is no access to fresh air or exercise.

The report recognises the suitability of the accommodation at Manston for short-term detention at the time of our visit, and the efforts of staff to create a calm and even welcoming atmosphere. But it also highlights failings in processes that undermine the resilience of the centre for dealing with increasing volumes of detainees.

Short-term holding centres like Manston are vulnerable to greater fluctuations in the number of detainees they hold than most other places of detention. And while Manston has a good amount of physical accommodation available, at the time of the inspection much of it was out of use because there were not enough staff. Further signs of strain included exhausted detainees sleeping on the floor and some who had been held for more than 30 hours waiting to be processed.

In addition to the pressures on accommodation, the report identified a number of other areas of concern. Detainees’ vulnerability was not always assessed or recorded appropriately: for example, victims of trafficking and people with disabilities – including severe mental health problems – were held at Manston, but they had not been designated as adults at risk. Translation services were not always used to make sure detainees understood what was happening. Some aspects of governance were also weak, especially in safeguarding and health care, and inconsistent practices affected detainees’ welfare and dignity. For example, some were not allowed access to mobile phones to let their families know they were safe, and in some parts of the site they were, inexplicably, not even allowed to close toilet doors fully.

Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons commented: “Inspectors recognised the work done in setting up the facility at Manston and improvements to Western Jet Foil, but also noted a number of risks. When I visited Manston in September, some of these risks had begun to materialise and I met detainees who had been held for more than four days in a facility that was not designed for overnight stays and in which there was no access to the open air. I was also concerned that there were still no mobile phones available, which meant that many detainees, including some who were very young, had been unable to contact their families.

“Recent intelligence from a number of credible sources, including the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, the Independent Monitoring Boards and staff associations, suggest that the current situation at Manston has significantly deteriorated since our July inspection. We are hearing that detainees are now being held in greater numbers and for much longer periods of time in cramped and uncomfortable conditions, often supervised by staff who have not been suitably trained.

“As a result of these concerns, the Inspectorate is planning a swift return to Manston and will expect to see substantial improvements. In the meantime, the Home Office and its contractors need to get a grip and urgently act on the findings of this report to make sure all detainees are held in safe, decent and humane conditions.”

* Read the report here.

Source: HMIP