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UK: Anger after man dies at migrant detention centre in Kent

Rights groups hit out at government over poor conditions at site in Manston, saying it had only been a matter of time before someone died
An aerial view shows the Manston short-term holding centre for migrants, near Ramsgate in southeast England, on 4 November 2022 (AFP)

Rights groups have hit out at the UK government after a man died at a migrant processing centre in southeast England.

The man, who has not been identified, reportedly became ill while at the Manston migrant detention site in Kent and later died after being taken to hospital.

The Guardian reported that he had arrived on a small boat on 12 November and was taken ill on Friday evening.

"We can confirm a person staying at Manston has died this morning [Saturday] in hospital after becoming unwell," a Home Office spokesperson told the newspaper.

"We wish to express our heartfelt condolences to all those affected.

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"Until a postmortem examination takes place, we cannot comment in detail, but there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that this tragic death was caused by an infectious disease.

"We take the safety and welfare of those in our care extremely seriously and provide 24/7 health facilities with trained medical staff at Manston."

'Shock people into doing something'

Campaigners, however, said the death was indicative of the poor conditions that migrants have been kept in at the centre.

Deborah Coles, director of Inquest, a charity that provides expertise on state-related deaths, called for an independent inquiry.

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The Manston site provides temporary accommodation to people while they are processed after crossing the English Channel on small boats.

The facility can hold 1,000 people, with a maximum of 1,600, but was described last month as being "catastrophically overcrowded".

"It feels as if it was only a matter of time before a death like this happened in this completely closed facility," Coles told the Guardian.

"Notwithstanding the concerns about conditions and the impact on the mental and physical health of people staying there, an independent investigation is needed to hold the different agencies involved to account.

"Maybe this death will shock people into doing something about the Manston facility."

New record

More than 40,000 migrants have crossed the nearby English Channel to Britain so far this year, a record, the UK government said on Sunday.

The provisional total for this year stands at 40,885, most of them Albanians, Iranians and Afghans, well in excess of last year's 28,561, the ministry of defence said.

On Saturday, some 972 people were detected making the perilous crossing in 22 boats, it said.

The figures have been rising for years. Some 299 were detected making the crossing in 2018; 1,843 in 2019; and 8,466 in 2020, according to the UK.

The numbers have continued to surge despite various UK initiatives, including a plan to send the migrants to Rwanda, which has been blocked in the courts.

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