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Asylum-seekers still held in ‘very poor’ conditions once they land in Kent, inspectors find, a year after government promises to make improvements

CHANNEL-CROSSING asylum-seekers are still being held in “very poor” conditions once they land in Kent, inspectors have found — a year after the government promised to make improvements. 

A series of damning reports, officially published today, lay bare the poor treatment and conditions being experienced by asylum-seekers held in short-term immigration facilities in Kent and beyond. 

Campaigners said the government’s failures to improve conditions a year after inspectors found “unacceptably poor conditions” at Kent sites has started “to look like deliberate cruelty.”

Prison inspectors found asylum-seekers being held in increasingly cold conditions at Tug Haven, a site in Dover where people are first taken from the boats.

While a new marquee gave asylum-seekers some shelter, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons found that many people, including families with children, spent over 24 hours in tents with no sleeping facilities. 

Women who said they had been raped by smugglers were “not adequately supported,” inspectors found. 

The findings are based on a visit to the site on the “least busy day” between October 8 and 11, when 400 people slept there overnight. 

Inspectors also found evidence of an increasing number of injuries that were not being picked up, including a 16-year-old girl who had fuel burns to her legs.

Her injuries were not detected until several days later, at which point the seam of her clothes had become embedded into the burns. A medic reported that the girl was likely to be scarred for life, the report found. 

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor said it was “unclear” why there had been delays to improvements following their last inspection in October 2020. 

The Home Office has also been warned of a “grave” situation at another detention facility near Heathrow, where Channel-crossing asylum-seekers are transported after being moved from the coast. 

Inspectors found that, on one night, four coaches arrived at Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre and detainees had to sleep on the floor, without proper sanitary arrangements.

In a letter to Home Office ministers, dated November 10, IMB chair for the centre Karina Kielbinska said services were at “breaking point.” She said the situation was “so grave, it merits urgent government attention” to protect both detainees and staff. 

In light of the reports, Independent Monitoring Board chair Anne Owens has written to Home Office ministers calling for urgent action. 

She said: “IMBs have continued to raise very serious concerns about the conditions and treatment of cross-Channel detainees, both on initial arrival and on the subsequent journey through the detention system, culminating in the events described in these reports. It is clear that urgent action is required.”

Bridget Chapman of the Kent Refugee Action Network said: “This is an absolutely damning report which reveals a litany of safeguarding failings towards the most vulnerable of people. 

“The fact that people are still being kept in such appalling conditions and with serious safeguarding failings starts to look like deliberate cruelty when you know these exact concerns were raised a year ago.”

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