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Refugee Action statement on Manston Airport

By October 31, 2022February 7th, 2023Press release

At Manston Airport, families are being forced to spend weeks sleeping on the floor in conditions described by the Chief Inspector of Immigration and Borders as wretched and dangerous.

People detained there have faced outbreaks of disease, overcrowding, too few support staff and a lack of access to charities and legal advice.

But this crisis has not happened by chance.

It has been created over many years by Governments that are more concerned about tough headlines and hostility than actually trying to understand and fix the problems in our refugee protection system.

This neglect – where money has been lavished on expensive and cruel plans like the deal to deport refugees to Rwanda and not where it is really needed – has left the system close to breakdown.

Hostile policies mean the Government has created no routes to for people to claim asylum in the UK, so refugees continue to have to use criminal smugglers to get here.

Hostile policies mean people often wait years for a decision on their asylum claim – which creates huge backlogs in the system, and swelling the number of people left in hotels, army barracks, or Manston.

And the words Ministers use to dehumanise people seeking asylum to sell their hostile policies creates fear that could have catastrophic consequences – such as the attack on a centre in Dover at the weekend.

The conditions at Manston are not isolated. This is not a one-off. For years families in our asylum system have suffered the prison-like camps at Napier or Penally Barracks, faced physical harm in decrepit and dangerous dispersal accommodation, felt their mental wellbeing crushed while warehoused into small hotel rooms, or been made street homeless.

These problems – like all the problems in our refugee protection system such as horrendously long wait times, Channel crossings, poverty and mental ill health – can only be fixed from the top down.

And fixing must start with a change of approach. Hostility isn’t working. It is inhumane, ineffective and costly. Only an approach rooted in compassion and understanding will succeed.”