The focus of the visit was to examine the treatment of foreign nationals arriving by small boat in the UK after crossing the English Channel. The CPT visited the Western Jet Foil disembarkation site and the Manston Short-Term Holding Facility (STHF), where migrants are processed and held for the first 24 hours after their humanitarian rescue and arrival in the country, as well as the Kent Intake Unit in Dover for unaccompanied and separated children.
The number of persons being detained in Manston had reduced from around 4 000 at the end of October 2022 to only 20 a month later when the delegation visited. The CPT observed a caring and professional attitude regarding the provision of humanitarian assistance, identity checks and the processing of migrants at all sites, and satisfactory living conditions for very short stays of up to 24 hours.
However, staff interviews and records revealed that at Manston STHF during the period of mass arrivals, foreign nationals were held from a few days up to more than 40 days in overcrowded marquees with no furniture other than foam mattresses, limited sanitary facilities and access to a very confined area outside for fresh air. The CPT concluded that the cumulative effect of prolonged detention in very poor conditions may have exposed many of those detained at Manston STHF in October and early November 2022 to inhuman and degrading treatment. The report recommends that, as part of the process of reclassifying part of the facility as an STHF Residential Holding Room, the deficiencies in material conditions should be remedied.
With regard to the legal safeguards afforded to migrants, the UK authorities should ensure that all foreign nationals are not detained beyond the statutory limits and that they receive a written review of their period of detention at the legally prescribed intervals.
The report also points to the need to improve the coordination and quality control of the provision of healthcare, to reinforce medical confidentiality and to ensure that all migrants detained for more than 24 hours are subject to a mandatory medical screening. Clinical protocols and guidelines should also be drawn up regarding, inter alia the management of hunger strikes and the prevention of suicide in detention.
The report also comments on the inappropriateness of isolating agitated foreign nationals, while handcuffed, in a small, box-like, fenced-in area in the rear of a van. There should also be healthcare oversight of any separation measures. Further, the management oversight of the use of force against a detained foreign national should be more rigorous and include a medical examination of the persons concerned.
In their response, the UK authorities provide information on the ongoing reclassification of parts of Manston STHF as a Residential Holding Room, where individuals can now be held for up to 96 hours, and on the progress made in upgrading its facilities, notably as regards new sleep/rest facilities, improved communal and recreational areas and the expansion of the medical unit. The UK authorities also inform the Committee of the measures taken to strengthen the legal safeguards of detained migrants and their improved and more expeditious border security and immigration processing.