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Refugee crisis

Hundreds of migrants arriving in UK forced to sleep on loading shed’s concrete floor

Migrants were not offered food, clean clothes or hot drinks during their detention

HUNDREDS of migrants who smuggled themselves across the Channel were held in a loading shed – forced to sleep on a concrete floor in “wholly unacceptable” conditions.

The scores of migrants who arrived in Folkestone last autumn by clinging onto the underside of lorries and freight trains were detained with no clothing, food or hot drinks.

A report said officials were overwhelmed with the thousands who arrived at ports in the south east, but chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke said it was “unacceptable” that officials did not manage the crisis more quickly.

 The conditions for the migrants is a bleak welcome
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The conditions for the migrants is a bleak welcome

The report said: “Many had had long and arduous journeys ... some had not eaten for very long periods and were hungry.

“Detainees gestured to us that they were hungry by pointing to their open mouths.”

Inspectors said 569 people were held in the Longport freight shed – including 90 children – between August 31 to October 3. While the vast majority were held for under 12 hours, the longest single period of detention involved an unaccompanied child who was held in the shed for 21 hours 25 minutes.

The reports recommends its immediate closure as a holding centre and Immigration minister James Brokenshire has said it will not be used again.

 They sleep on concrete floors when they arrive in the UK
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They sleep on concrete floors when they arrive in the UK

The inspection was ordered after a surge in the number of attempts to enter the UK via the Channel Tunnel last summer.

In the first nine months of 2014, there were 2,118 detentions, while in 2015, the figure had increased to 4,785.

In the three months to the end of September alone, there had been 2,781 detentions. In addition, 822 men were held at an overflow facility in Folkestone called Frontier House which had nowhere suitable to sleep.

A third facility Dover Seaport was judged to be “crowded, poorly ventilated and smelled badly”.

INSPECTORS' REPORT

- The Dover Seaport facility was "crowded, poorly ventilated and smelled badly". It was not designed to hold people for more than a few hours but over the summer detainees were held for an average of 18 hours. The holding room had religious books and a prayer mat, but no compass to indicate the direction of Mecca.

- There was nowhere suitable to rest, no shower facilities and no windows at Frontier House, while the pay phone did not work.

- Conditions at Longport freight shed were "wholly unacceptable", with detainees held overnight or for several hours with no clean or dry clothes, no food or hot drinks and nowhere to sleep other than on a concrete floor.

The combined total of 3,603 is equivalent to 1,200 people stopped a month - or 40 every day.

Throughout the summer migrants massed in Calais made thousands of attempts to reach Britain, with a number dying as they tried to make the journey.

The crisis was said to have cost the economy millions of pounds as hauliers were forced to dispose of contaminated goods and wait in lengthy queues on the M20 in Kent.

HMIP described the response to high numbers of migrants arriving through the Channel Tunnel as "inadequate", saying the basic physical needs of detainees were not met and conditions lacked decency.

 One arrival facility has been described as "crowded, poorly ventilated and smelled badly"
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One arrival facility has been described as "crowded, poorly ventilated and smelled badly"

Chief Inspector Peter Clarke said: "There is no doubt that the increases in migration initially overwhelmed the existing facilities and an emergency response was required.

"This inspection took place some months after that emergency response was initiated and it was unacceptable that arrangements were still not in place to process detainees quickly, efficiently and decently, while ensuring that the most vulnerable, such as children, were safe and that the basic physical needs of all detainees for food, rest and clothing were met."

He added: "The events of the summer and early autumn of 2015, in terms of the numbers of migrants arriving through the Channel Tunnel were indeed unprecedented, but in light of the build-up of activity over several months they were not unpredictable."