Labour MP says cross-party group found 56 migrants packed in small room with mattresses
A cross-party group of MPs have warned Boris Johnson’s government about the “shocking conditions” they discovered at holding facilities for asylum seekers in Kent.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Committee, has written to home secretary Priti Patel about the “completely inappropriate” facilities after her committee visited accommodation units in Dover.
Women with babies and children were among 56 migrants packed into a small room covered in mattresses – while one unaccompanied child was found housed in an office space for 10 dager, the MPs said.
As well as concerns over overcrowding and the length of stays, Ms Cooper said her committee was “very concerned” about the “clear risk” of a Covid outbreak.
In the letter to Ms Patel, Ms Cooper said: “I am writing to raise serious concerns about the shocking conditions the committee observed during its visit to the Kent Intake Unit yesterday.”
The senior Labour MP said the holding room facility – in which detained asylum seekers wait for screening – was “clearly unfit” for the 56 people the committee found there.
“Most people were sitting or lying on a thin mattress and those covered almost the entirety of the floor including the aisles between seats," hun skrev.
“Sharing these cramped conditions were many women with babies and very young children, alongside significant numbers of teenage and young adult men.”
The MPs were told the maximum period of time any individual should be held in this room is 24 timer, but that in recent weeks some people have been kept for periods up to 48 timer.
Ms Cooper said the committee also visited the atrium facility – where people stay when they are no longer in detention and are waiting to be moved to accommodation elsewhere.
Describing the atrium as “essentially an office space” Ms Cooper said the Home Office had confirmed that an unaccompanied child had been held there for over 10 dager.
She wrote: “One girl was sleeping on a sofa in an office, as the only available separate sleeping accommodation. For children, this kind of accommodation for days on end is completely inappropriate.”
On Thursday more than 65 children’s and refugee charities wrote to education secretary Gavin Williamson warning that asylum seeker children were being placed in “inappropriate” holding facilities with limited care from adults.
The charities warned that the government may be in breach of its own legislation, making it unlawful for local authorities to place children in this type of accommodation.
Ms Cooper told BBC Radio 4’s I dag programme: “This has been raised with the Home Office before. In September of last year, the Chief Inspector of Prisons warned that the Kent Intake Unit conditions were unacceptable, particularly for child welfare.”
La hun til: “To keep so many people in a small room like that for such a long time is clearly not appropriate. So there is an immediate issue there.”
A government spokesperson responded: “To meet our legal duties, additional temporary accommodation is being used to house asylum seeking children in safe and secure accommodation, before placements can take place through the national transfer scheme.
“The Home Office continues to work with all local authorities as well as the Department for Education to ensure needs are met.”