29 July 2021: Guardian: MPs decry ‘shocking conditions’ at facilities for asylum seekers
Yvette Cooper, chair of home affairs committee, wrote to Priti Patel after visiting Kent sites on Tuesday
MPs have raised serious concerns about the “shocking conditions” they found in Kent holding facilities for asylum seekers, including an unaccompanied child housed in an office space for 10 days, and a girl forced to sleep on a sofa for days on end.
Yvette Cooper, chair of the home affairs select committee, has written to the home secretary following a committee visit on Tuesday when MPs saw asylum seekers held in cramped, unsafe and “completely inappropriate” facilities.
Cooper described how they found 56 people crammed into a small, unventilated waiting room before they were assigned an onward placement. There was no social distancing, or mask wearing, and it was hard to see how it was Covid-safe, she said.
“Most people were sitting or lying on a thin mattress and those covered almost the entirety of the floor including the aisles between seats. Sharing these cramped conditions were many women with babies and very young children alongside significant numbers of teenage and young adult men,” she said in her letter to Priti Patel.
The MPs also visited the Atrium facility – “essentially an office space with a large central room and several adjoining offices” – where asylum seekers were held while awaiting ongoing travel, often for several days at a time and in some cases for up to 10 days.
Cooper said the Home Office had confirmed to the committee that one of the individuals held in the Atrium facility for over 10 days was an unaccompanied child. They also said: “One girl was sleeping on a sofa in an office, as the only available separate sleeping accommodation. For children, this kind of accommodation for days on end is completely inappropriate.”
28July 2021: Guardian: The Guardian view on Channel migrants: people, not political props
The RNLI has moral justice on its side when reasserting its humanitarian mission to provide sea rescue without discrimination
Viewed from Downing Street, the problem of migrant boats crossing the Channel involves a conflict between a humanitarian obligation and political pressure for closed borders. But at sea level there is no dilemma. Once people have already taken to the water and found themselves in difficulty, politics yields to ethics and the duty to save lives.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is a historic embodiment of that ethos. Its volunteer mariners do not interrogate the motives that led people to the sea before fishing them out. Nor should they. The RNLI’s founding mission is to help without discrimination, and it has made clear that it will not adapt that code to satisfy political frustrations at the volume of migrants attempting entry to Britain by boat. That traffic (though far lower than elsewhere) has, inevitably, meant lifeboat crews sometimes stepping in where the coastguard has not reached imperilled vessels. Those cases account for as many as half of the RNLI’s Channel launches.