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Inspectors: Refugees held in “wholly unacceptable” conditions in freight shed


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An unannounced inspection of short term detention facilities for refugees and migrants crossing the Channel into the UK has revealed that hundreds, including many children, have been held in “wholly unacceptable” and insanitary conditions. Many were held in a disused freight shed and forced to sleep on concrete floors, with no food, drink or clothing provided.

The increase in numbers making the crossing to the UK in the summer of 2015 was found to have “overwhelmed” the Home Office and contractors but the emergency arrangements were still in place several months later, when the inspection took place. The increase in arrivals over the summer was predictable and the report questions why no adequate plans were put in place.

At Longport Freight Shed the inspectors found “wholly unacceptable” conditions, with detainees held overnight with no clean or dry clothes, no food or hot drinks and nowhere to sleep other than the concrete floor. Many seemed to inspectors to be hungry:

Detainees gestured to us that they were hungry by pointing to their open mouths.

Detainees arrived with conditions including scabies and diarrhoea but toilet and washing facilities were inadequate and blankets were not washed after each use, presenting “obvious health risks”. There was said to be a lack of urgency about transferring detainees out of the facility. You can see for yourself with some of the images from the report:

The facility at Dover seaport was found to be crowded, poorly ventilated and to smell badly.  There were no sleeping facilities but nearly a quarter of detainees there were held for over 24 hours, with one detainee held for three days there. Women and children were held in the same room as unrelated men and there were significant safeguarding issues. The length of detention for children was found to be “routinely excessive” with one child being held for over 58 hours.

Maybe David Cameron was not wrong when he suggested that loss of the UK’s external border would lead to migrant camps in the south of England. We seem to be halfway there already.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.