Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

‘Please help us’: Migrants’ plea in letter thrown over fence at Manston immigration facility

Overcrowded unit ‘like a prison’ say detainees in plea to media and aid groups

Flora Thompson
Wednesday 02 November 2022 18:32 GMT
What are the problems facing Manston immigration centre?

Migrants being held in the Manston processing centre have begged for help as they described the conditions as a “prison”.

A young girl threw a bottle containing a letter over the perimeter fence to a PA news agency photographer on Wednesday afternoon which claimed there were pregnant women and sick detainees at the Kent facility.

It comes after hundreds of people are thought to have been moved out of the disused airfield site near Ramsgate following concerns it had become dangerously overcrowded.

The letter, written in broken English and addressed to “journalists, organisations, everyone” appeared to suggest that 50 families had been held at Manston for more than 30 days.

It said: “We are in a difficult life now … we fill like we’re in prison [sic]

“Some of us very sick … ther’s some women’s that are pregnant they don’t do anything for them [sic] …

“We really need your help. Please help us.”

The letter thrown by a young girl over the fence at the Manston immigration facility (PA)

The letter claims there is a disabled child at the site, adding: “He’s really bad, they don’t even care about him.”

“It’s not easy for someone who has children … There’s a lot of children they shouldn’t be here. They should be in a school, not prison,” it adds.

The letter went on to say, “our food is very bad like its make us fill sick … we got no phone no money no smok [sic].”

Witnesses said they saw security guards at the site ushering detainees back inside when members of the press were walking by the fence. The young girl was among a group of children who broke past security guards and ran over to the fence to throw the bottle to the photographer.

The letter added: “We wanna talk to you but they don’t even let us go outside.”

Migrants at the Manston immigration short-term holding facility on Tuesday (PA)

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said on Tuesday the number of migrants had “fallen substantially”, with more expected to be moved the following day.

The situation had been branded a “breach of humane conditions” with 4,000 people being held there as opposed to its capacity of 1,600.

Meanwhile, the home secretary was warned by Kent council chiefs the county is at “breaking point” because of the burden of accommodating migrants, the potential for disorder at Manston and the risk of far-right violence.

In the letter to Suella Braverman, the leaders of 14 authorities including Kent County Council and Medway called on the government to stop using the county as an “easy fix for what is a national, strategic issue”, claiming they were under disproportionate pressure because of their location.

“The situation at Manston is critical,” the local authority chiefs said, with tension among the detainees and outbreaks of diseases including coronavirus, scabies and diphtheria.

“We now have approaching 4,000 service users contained within segregated marquees as we approach the coldest months of the year, some having been on roll mats for over a month.”

There are “reports of tensions growing and concern about the potential for disorder”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Manston remains resourced and equipped to process migrants securely and we will provide alternative accommodation as soon as possible.

“We urge anyone who is thinking about leaving a safe country and risk their lives at the hands of vile people smugglers to seriously reconsider.”

Despite what they have been told, they will not be allowed to start a new life here.” 

The department said it provides for all the basic needs of migrants arriving in the UK, their safety and those of its staff are its utmost priority and it is committed to protecting their welfare.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in