Overcrowding leads to chaos at Manston asylum seeker centre 

On Sunday, a terrorist detonated petrol bombs at a Kent Asylum Seeker Processing Centre, shortly afterwards taking his own life. The evacuation of this centre led approximately 700 asylum seekers to the now infamous Manston Processing Centre, following what had already been weeks of chaos involving overcrowding and reports of harrowing conditions even leading to the outbreak of disease.

The troubling situation at Manston has mainly been viewed and presented in media outlets as a political tool to try and oust recently reappointed Conservative Home Secretary Suella Braverman. Along with a number of other gaffes such as using a personal email to discuss government business, the ‘Guardian-reading tofu-eating Wokerati’ hold the situation at Manston up as proof of Braverman’s incompetence.

True or otherwise, what is inevitably forgotten in the media cycle and general discourse over the past few days is that these are conditions real people, young and old, are forced to endure, following an already treacherous journey, only hoping to find opportunities to thrive and flourish. Though they may have reached Britain’s shores, the treatment of these people (mainly black and minority ethnic) at the hands of the government puts them at risk of medical emergency, fire, and generally degrading treatment.

Designed as a temporary processing centre built on a defunct airfield for increasing numbers of asylum seekers and migrants crossing the channel (approx.. 40,000 so far this year, up from approx. 28,000 at this time last year), Manston was (and still is) intended to hold 1600 people – last weekend, it held 4,000, 250% of its capacity.

Furthermore, reports of ‘refugee-dumping’ at Victoria station in London have begun to arise, with 11 refugees, reportedly from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq, left to fend for themselves on Tuesday evening with no money, food, or place to go. Charity workers had to step in, and when questioning the Home Office, were answered with the claim that it was an ‘operational error’, and a one-off incident – people in and around Victoria station however allege to have seen this happen a number of times.

The immigration debate is often seen as a central conflict in the so-called ‘culture wars’ that apparently are engulfing British political discourse. Though the inhumane treatment that even children are suffering at the hands of the government at detention centres like Manston are being condemned by rights groups and working people alike, all too often little to nothing is done to alleviate the dire material conditions which face asylum seekers travelling the dangerous path to a safer life in the UK.

It comes as no surprise that those arriving are often non-white (drawing interesting parallels to the effective and organised settling of Ukrainian refugees earlier this year and continuing through to now) and poor. What is vital is to remember that those who do survive the journey, forced away from their home nations by poverty and war, are in need of support – not to be merely the pawns of Westminster in a political point-scoring game.

Eddie Dewing, is a member of the YCL’s North East Branch

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