Robert Jenrick quizzed on "root cause" of the problems at Manston
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The Home Office has referred the recent death of a migrant at the Manston immigration centre to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) following calls for an investigation into its circumstances. Government officials have stressed that they did not believe the conditions at the controversial asylum seeker camp in Kent – which have been the subject of criticism – had materially contributed to the death.
The IOPC said on Sunday that it had received a referral over the death, which it was now assessing as to whether further action was required.
The police watchdog also has responsibility for overseeing investigations into the conduct of the border force and immigration staff.
The man died on Saturday morning, after being taken to hospital on Friday evening. It is believed he suffered organ failure.
The migrant – who was in his thirties and originated from the Middle East – was reportedly smuggled across the Channel illegally in a small boat the Saturday before last.
His death is the first fatality of a migrant being detained at the Manston immigration centre, which was established in February this year in a bid to help deal with the large influx of undocumented asylum seekers making the treacherous crossing from France.
More than 40,000 migrants have arrived in Kent this year, the highest volume seen in recent years.
The Home Office has faced criticism for keeping more migrants at the centre than it has capacity for, for longer than 24 hours due to accommodation shortages. After a peak of 4,000 detainees, the number now stands around 300.
The conditions at the former RAF base were previously described by inspectors as “wretched”, with recorded outbreaks of diseases such as diphtheria and scabies.
However, Government officials have suggested that the death did not appear to be linked to any spread of infection.
Sources told the Sunday Times that the migrant who had died was unwell upon being registered in Dover, and had been sent to a local hospital.
He was reportedly discharged later that day and taken to Manston, where he was held for three days.
It is believed that his condition worsened and he was placed in a medical bay until Friday, when his health deteriorated further and he was returned to hospital treatment.
In interviews this morning, Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, said the migrant had a pre-existing condition and did not fall ill because of the conditions at Manston.
He added that evidence suggested the man’s death was not as a result of contracting an infectious disease such as diphtheria.
A Home Office spokesperson said the centre had healthcare facilities that were staffed by trained medics around the clock, adding: “We take the safety of those in our care extremely seriously and are profoundly saddened by this event.
“A post-mortem examination will take place so it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”
Following the news of the migrant’s death, Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, said that there “will of course need to be a full investigation into this tragic case”.
Clare Moseley, the founder of refugee charity Care4Calais, claimed: “Refugees we are supporting who have recently been released from Manston have told us they were denied access to doctors and medication.
“We continue to have concerns about the health facilities at the centre.”
Meanwhile, Freedom From Torture, a group that provides psychological support for asylum seekers, called for “a compassionate asylum system that works”.
Inquest, a charity that supports bereaved families following a death in state care, joined calls for an independent investigation, commenting that it felt “as if it was only a matter of time before a death like this happened”.
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