Manston Facility Empties Following Urgent Legal Action Against Home Secretary in Response to Conditions

Detention Action has welcomed reports that all people held at the Manston Short-Term Holding Facility have now been moved into alternative accommodation elsewhere. The rapid emptying of the facility took place after Detention Action, PCS Union and a woman held at the facility issued the first legal action against the Home Secretary for her mistreatment of people held at the site.

On Monday 1st November, an urgent, pre-action letter was sent to the office of the Home Secretary on behalf of Detention Action and a woman held at the Manston facility. PCS Union, which represents Border Force and Home Office staff working at the facility, later joined the legal challenge.

The Home Secretary was offered a week to respond to the pre-action letter. After a week, the Home Secretary’s lawyers requested an extension of the deadline for response, which was granted by the claimants. However, no substantive response was received by the extended deadline. A written response from the Home Secretary’s lawyers was received five days after the extended deadline, only once the Manston site had been emptied. Although the site has been emptied, the Home Secretary has made no announcement to close the site.

The claimants are represented by Duncan Lewis solicitors. The letter contended that the individual woman claimant, a national of a non-European country, was detained by the Home Secretary at the Manston facility:

  • in excess of statutory time limits;
  • in overcrowded, unhygienic and unsafe conditions that constitute inhuman or degrading treatment;
  • beyond the legal powers of the Home Secretary;
  • contrary to the government’s published detention policy;
  • in violation of the right not to be detained arbitrarily;
  • in inadequate conditions with a lack of privacy, where she was denied telephone access to family members and lawyers.

James Wilson, Deputy Director of Detention Action, said:

“The Home Secretary has only taken steps to address her serious failures at Manston after our urgent legal challenge and widespread, public condemnation. Potentially thousands of people may be legally entitled to compensation for their mistreatment at Manston and we are calling for an independent inquiry into conditions at the facility to be held. We are still concerned at this Government’s knee-jerk response to this issue, including proposals to hold people in disused student accommodation, defunct military bases or unused holiday camps, where many of the problems we saw at Manston are likely to be repeated.”

Paul O’Connor, Head of Bargaining at PCS, said:

“The conditions at Manston that refugees and our members have had to endure recently have been a disgrace. We are pleased that the Home Secretary has been forced to respond to our concerns but we should not have needed to resort to the threat of legal action before they were addressed. The government’s entire approach on asylum is a failure. Our members need the time, space and resources to deliver a functioning system free from the type of crisis management we see all too often. It is time to design a system based on a rational assessment of need and for the Home Secretary to drop her increasingly irrational rhetoric on the issue.”