We’ve spoken to an asylum seeker who says he spent 15 days sleeping in a tent with more than 120 people at a migrant centre that has been criticised for its “appalling” and “wretched” conditions.
The asylum seeker, Abed*, crossed the English Channel from France to the UK on a small boat before he was taken to an asylum centre which he believes to be Manston, and we have verified his account.
We first met Abed in Calais and have followed his journey since. His story is one of the few first-person accounts detailing the recent conditions inside the asylum centre in Kent, south east England.
He said more than 120 people were staying and sleeping in each of the 20-22 tents at the migrant centre.
He described: “There [were] lots of people sleeping on the floor…
“The people [were] putting the blankets on the floor and then [they] were sleeping on it."
The Manston migrant centre is designed for no more than 1,600 people. But, according to recent reports, there are more than 2,500 people staying there.
The centre recently had an outbreak of diphtheria - a highly contagious and rare bacterial infection - affecting a “very small” number of people.
The Home Office told The Guardian "full medical guidance and protocols have been followed."
There have also been reports of scabies, a parasitic infection, being widespread in the centre.
Abed described witnessing three people have “itching” and “scratching” problems but they were still kept together in the tent.
He said: “I want to inform all people, all the politicians, please don’t put people in one tent because lots of people when they come, everybody has [illness], everyone has problems when they [are] coming together, the problem will spread."
Migrants are only supposed to stay at the centre for 24 hours to undergo checks before being moved on to accommodation or immigration detention centres.
Abed, however, spent 15 days at the centre.
The asylum seeker came to the UK after he fled from the Taliban in Afghanistan.
He said his life was 'in danger' as he was employed at a company that worked with foreign organisations.
The independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, David Neal, told politicians about the conditions at the centre which left him ”speechless.”
He warned the centre had already passed the point of being unsafe.
He said: "I spoke to an Afghan family who had been in a marquee for 32 days. So that's in a marquee... with kitmats on the floor, with blankets, for 32 days."
He added: "I was very concerned about Manston... It's a really dangerous situation.
"There are risks there in terms of fire, in terms of disorder, in terms of medical and infection."
Abed was moved to hotel accommodation after 15 days in the migrant centre.
He said he does not have any photos inside the Manston migrant centre as his phone and clothes were taken from him by immigration officials before he was taken to the centre on a bus.
His belongings were later returned to him after he was released from the migrant centre.
What's the background?
More than 37,000 people have crossed the English Channel so far this year.
The Home Office said the growing numbers of people who are crossing the English Channel via small boats has put “our asylum system under incredible pressure.”
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 risking 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 Home Office said they provide all of the basic needs of people who have arrived tired, cold, in wet clothing and who may not have eaten during their journey.
They said the safety of their officers and those arriving by small boat is their utmost priority.
They added they will use every tool at their disposal to deter illegal migration, disrupt the business model of people smugglers and relocate people ‘who have no right to be in the UK’ to Rwanda.