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Migrant charity concerned after teenager ‘scarred for life’ at processing centre

A general view of Tug Haven migrant processing facility in Dover (PA)
A general view of Tug Haven migrant processing facility in Dover (PA)

A migrant support charity says it is concerned by a report which reveals people at Kent processing centres were unable to wash for days and one teenage girl was “scarred for life” with chemical burns.

The report is based on inspections of short-term migrant processing facilities in Kent in 2021 – but was only published this week.

Inspectors from the Independent Monitoring Board visited the now-closed Tug Haven facility and Kent Intake Unit in Dover, as well as Frontier House in Folkestone.

The Home Office says improvements have been made since these inspections took place.

In October 2021 inspectors found sleeping conditions at Tug Haven were “extremely crowded”, with people sleeping on thin foam mats with a blanket but no pillows in a tent.

The report added: “Some detained people slept on double-decker buses, parked on Tarmac inside the fence, which apparently were also used as rail replacement buses.”

The male and female toilets were described as “extremely dirty”, and due to a lack of showers and laundry facilities people would go “several days” without bathing.

Many people brought to the facilities had diesel on their clothes, which in some cases resulted in chemical burns.

Inspection report into migrants arriving via small boats at Tug Haven and Western Jet Foil
Handout photo showing the search and changing area at Tug Haven (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration/PA)

The report added: “During one visit in October, the medic raised concern about a 16-year-old girl who had been admitted to the Kent Intake Unit with fuel burns on her legs. She had been at the Tug Haven for two days wearing wet clothes.

“The seam of these clothes had become embedded into the burns.

“The medic reported the girl was likely to be scarred for life. The medic was told there had been no clothing available for her at the Tug Haven. These injuries had not been detected until she arrived at the intake unit.”

However, the report did praise staff working at the facilities, saying they were “respectful, caring and empathetic” and those detained “spoke highly” of them.

A spokesman for charity Migrant Help said: “As a charity that has been working for nearly 60 years to support people affected by exploitation and displacement, Migrant Help strongly believes everybody deserves to feel safe and have their human rights protected, so we are, of course concerned to hear these reports about these conditions.

“Migrant Help is not responsible for providing accommodation to people seeking asylum. We signpost people to the relevant services, and can also support with reporting any issues with their accommodation.

“People arriving in the UK have often faced unimaginable hardship on their journeys, and we will continue to support and advocate for them, so that they can begin to rebuild their lives once they reach safety in our country.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We thank the Independent Monitoring Board for its report. Since the inspection took place in 2021, improvements have been made to the short-term holding facilities available to receive the unprecedented number of people arriving in the UK illegally.

“The Tug Haven site is no longer operational. Illegal arrivals are now processed at Western Jet Foil and Manston, where we offer suitable welfare provisions, while specialist facilities for young people are available at the Kent Intake Unit for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

“The global migration crisis continues to place an unprecedented and unsustainable strain on our asylum system.

“Despite this, we are absolutely committed to securing the welfare of all migrants arriving in the UK illegally.”