The Manston asylum centre has been the site of tragedy and controversy over the past few weeks. Since the end of October there have been reports of guards selling cannabis to detainees, massive issues with overcrowding, cases of diptheria, and most recently, the tragic death of one man. People whose asylum claims were yet to be processed after making the journey to the UK were said to have been sleeping on mats on the floor for weeks, even though the centre was designed to hold migrants for ideally no more than 24 hours at a time – and 48 hours at the absolute most.
Thankfully, for now the site is completely empty, with the government deciding to house migrants in hotels instead. It’s a small win – for those who had to stay in Manston, and also for the activists that have worked so tirelessly to improve conditions for them.
The fact remains, though, that the migrants waiting to be processed should never have been subject to the inhumane conditions described at the asylum centre. And sadly, the threat of the asylum centre being reopened still looms overhead.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “There are currently no people being accommodated on site, and improvements continue to be made to the site to ensure it remains well resourced to process migrants safely and securely.” This suggests that migrants are being housed in alternative accommodation only temporarily, while conditions are improved at Manston.
While the evacuation of Manston is unambiguously great news, we’d do well to remember that the ‘hostile environment’ remains alive and well. Migrants are still dehumanised, not only by the Tory government – in particular Suella Braverman, known for her venomous diatribes used to spark anger and fear in the British public – but also the right-wing media who push the false narrative that the people arriving in this country on small boats somehow pose a threat to our everyday lives. With this in mind, it’s vital we continue to stand up for the rights of people forced to stay in other detention centres like Manston.