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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Liam James and Adam Forrest

Manston asylum seekers ‘abandoned’ at London station ‘with nowhere to stay’

Under One Sky

A group of asylum seekers were reportedly left “abandoned” in central London without accommodation or warm clothing after being taken from the Manston processing centre.

It comes as 14 councils in Kent and Medway said hundreds of people from Albania who were held at Manston were being “dropped at mid-Kent train stations with no follow up where they go”.

Officials moved around 50 asylum seekers from the overcrowded Kent facility on Tuesday, but 11 men were not given anywhere to go after reaching Victoria coach station, homelessness charity volunteers told The Guardian.

Under One Sky workers told the newspaper some of the 11 were in flip-flops and had no coats despite it being a cold, windy night. They said they were stressed, hungry and disoriented.

Danial Abbas, a volunteer with Under One Sky, told the BBC: “They thought they were going to a hotel in London and were very happy about the prospect of leaving Manston.”

The men, who he understood to be from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, were all wearing identity bracelets with QR codes on their wrists.

One of the asylum seekers who said he was stranded at Victoria station told the BBC he thought he was being sent to a hotel in London when he boarded a coach at Manston.

He said: “When we got to Victoria station the bus driver told us to get off the bus. I asked the bus driver to please call the immigration officer, but he said that I must get off the bus and call family. I said to him maybe there was [a] misunderstanding because I don’t have family in here.

Group were left outside central London station (Under One Sky)

“Other guys saying same. We were about 11 who didn’t have anywhere to go. The bus driver just said we had to get off the bus. He said he just had to take us to Victoria and we should use phones to call family.”

Mr Abbas said the men were “desperate for tea, coffee, soup”. He arranged to buy food at McDonald’s and bought more than 80 items of clothing from Primark including gloves, shoes and hats.

He then got in touch with an official from the Home Office, who he says described the situation as “completely unacceptable” and arranged for the group to be taken to a hotel in Norwich.

It comes as 14 councils in Kent and Medway said hundreds of Albanians from Manston were being “dropped at mid-Kent train stations with no follow up where they go”.

Some 14 councils wrote to home secretary Suella Braverman warned that Kent was at “breaking point” and said people from Manston were people dumped at local train stations.

Many in the group did not have coats on a cold night (Under One Sky)

They stated: “We have hundreds of mostly Albanian service users not claiming asylum and being bailed and dropped at mid-Kent train stations with no follow up where they go or if they leave Kent.”

The councils also said “far-Right activity” was growing at sites housing migrants. It follows the firebombing of a reception centre for people arriving on small boats from Dover.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick told ITV’s Peston the government has a duty not to leave people destitute. “There is also a duty not to leave people destitute and it would be quite wrong for the home secretary – or me as the immigration minister – to bail people onto the streets of rural Kent without support.”

Mr Jenrick estimated about 3,500 people remained at the Manston facility in Kent on Wednesday night – despite its maximum capacity of 1,600 – as his boss faced questions over what will be done to address overcrowding at the site.

Mr Jenrick suggested the current situation at Manston may be neither humane nor legal, telling Sky News’ The Take with Sophy Ridge he expects it “will be returned to a well-functioning and certainly legally compliant site very rapidly”.

Ms Braverman was also under fire from the prime minister of Albania, who accused Britain of becoming like a “madhouse” with a culture of “finding scapegoats” during a migration crisis where “failed policies” are to blame.

Edi Rama lashed out at Ms Braverman’s “crazy” choice of language in a combative Commons debate this week, in which she claimed there is an “invasion”.

Minister Graham Stuart admitted “unfortunate language” had been used – blaming “pressure” from the rise in small boat crossings.

“It can lead to language which is sometimes unfortunate, and it is worth putting on record our gratitude to the Albanian government for their co-operation in working to sort this out,” he told Sky News.

Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael raised the dumping of aslyum seekers, saying it contradicted Ms Braverman’s claim to not be releasing people from Manston without having anywhere for them to stay.

He said: “On Monday … the home secretary said ‘What I have refused to do is to prematurely release … thousands of people into local communities without having anywhere for them to stay’. It is reported today that last night exactly that happened.”

He added: “That surely contradicts what the home secretary told the House. She has something to answer. It would be very useful for the House to know whether or not she intends to come here and explain herself or whether yet again she has to be brought.”

The UK’s chief inspector of Borders and Immigration said it was a “dangerous” and “wretched” place after visiting last week. There have been several cases of bacterial infections diphtheria and MRSA reported in the centre.

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