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REUTERS/Hannah McKay
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REUTERS/Hannah McKay
UK News

Christian refugee charity boss calls out UK government as pressure mounts over conditions at migrant centre

by Tola Mbakwe

The head of a Christian refugees charity is urging the UK government to adopt a “fast and fair” approach to immigration, as there have been urgent calls to tackle deteriorating conditions at a migrant processing centre in southeast England.

Senior Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale said the situation at an overcrowded processing centre in Kent is a "breach of humane conditions".

Dr Krish Kandiah, director of Sanctuary Foundation told Premier what’s happening to migrants is "un-Christian".

“People are just not being treated with dignity and humanity. And as Christians, we believe every single human being is made in the image of God, regardless of their immigration status, or what country they're from. They are made in the image of God, and they're worthy of dignity and respect.

“No one should be stuffed in unsafe overcrowded detention centres, and definitely no one should be trying to firebomb such a thing. As Christians, we’ve got to encourage the government to do what's right, and that is to deal with people with humanity, offer them a safe route to be able to come here if they need to escape from war, famine and terror.

"And we've seen that happen for Ukraine. So we know it's possible for other groups to and then we need a fast and fair assessment system.”

Nearly 1,000 migrants arrived in Britain in small boats on Saturday alone, according to the Ministry of Defence. Conditions at the site at Manston in Kent were last week described by Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration David Neal as "pretty wretched".

Intended to house around 1,500 migrants for less than 24 hours at a time, numbers have swelled to more than double that, with one Afghan family telling Neal they had been there for 32 days.

Neal told a parliamentary committee that out of 11,000 people who had gone through the centre in the past two months, there had been four cases of diphtheria.

On Sunday, a similar centre in the nearby port of Dover was attacked by a man who drove up and threw petrol bombs attached to fireworks before killing himself.

Local lawmaker Roger Gale, a member of the governing Conservatives, visited Manston on Sunday and said it had deteriorated significantly in recent days and weeks.

"It is overwhelmed," he told BBC Radio. "There are simply far too many people there and this situation should never have been allowed to develop and I'm not sure that it hasn't almost been developed deliberately."

Gale said a decision had been made in the Home Office not to book hotel accommodation to house migrants and he had requested that a government minister explain the situation to parliament.

Asked if some believed worse conditions would put people off travelling to Britain, Gale said: "I would say that is wholly unacceptable ... we need a grown-up solution to what is a very real problem."

Government figures show 40,000 people have crossed the Channel into the UK so far this year.  Dr Kandiah told Premier the government needs to do better at discerning who genuinely needs asylum, but should not punish those who are truly coming to the UK to escape dangerous and unsafe conditions.

He urged the government to end it’s “hard-line approach”.

“I am an immigrant, so I know the power of immigration, I know the power of welcome,” he said.

“But some of the rhetoric that's been coming from the current government seems to be punishing the wrong people. I'm absolutely opposed to the Rwanda scheme. I think it punishes people who have been trafficked rather than the traffickers, and it doesn't live up to our standards as a nation, which has an incredible history and in fact, an incredible current experience of hospitality through the Ukraine scheme. And I think we need to make sure that people who genuinely need safety are provided for it here."

A spokesperson for UK Home Office said the number of arrivals via small boats was putting the asylum system under "incredible pressure".

"Manston remains resourced and equipped to process migrants securely and we will provide alternative accommodation as soon as possible," the spokesperson said.

New British prime minister Rishi Sunak's office last week said he had discussed the issue of clandestine migration across the Channel with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Charlie Taylor, the chief inspector of prisons, said the Home Office needed to "get a grip", and he would be returning to the site soon after inspecting it over the summer.

"They need to speed up the processing of migrants, they need to make suitable provisions so people can be moved off-site as quickly as possible and housed in humane and decent conditions," he told BBC Radio.


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