Child migrants claim UK officials 'tell them to LIE they are ADULTS'

Child migrants claim UK officials ‘tell them to LIE that they are ADULTS’: Teenage asylum seekers are ‘advised to pretend they’re over 18 so they can leave crisis-hit Manston compound more quickly’

  • Child migrants ‘are being pressed by UK officials to lie about their age’
  • The asylum seekers ‘are told this will help them leave Manston quicker’
  • Manston is mired in crisis as Channel crossings are set to hit 50,000 this year
  • The Home Office branded the allegations ‘baseless speculation’ 

Child migrants are claiming that they are being pressed by UK officials to lie that they are adults so that they can leave the crisis-hit Manston compound more quickly, a report alleges.

The child asylum seekers, who are said to have crossed the Channel on small boats, are reportedly claiming that they were told by officials that they would be able to get out of the troubled processing plant in Kent faster if they pretend that they are over 18.

A recording was reportedly passed to The Guardian of an apparent 16-year-old Eritrean boy speaking to a guard at Manston on Saturday about the pressure he says he was put under to say he was older. 

The Refugee Council also gave the Left-wing newspaper information about three recent interviews their staff carried out with Kurdish boys from Iraq and Iran who made the same claims.

And a fifth child reportedly made the same allegation to the Humans for Rights Network, the report adds.

The Home Office branded the allegations ‘baseless speculation’, with a spokesperson telling MailOnline no evidence has been produced to back the claims. MailOnline has asked the Refugee Council and the Humans for Rights Network for further information.

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent on October 27

A group of people thought to be migrants at Dover on October 13 

An aerial view of the Manston processing centre in Kent. The site has tripled in size since May due to record numbers of small boat crossings 

A coach full of migrants leaving the Manston camp in Kent. They are not children

Conditions at the Manston processing centre deteriorated further last night as insiders warned migrants were fighting each other with improvised weapons.

The Kent site has tripled in size since May, when seven tents were being used to house asylum seekers – compared with 21 yesterday.

Some 4,000 people are now packed into the former RAF station – which has a capacity of just 1,600. Severe overcrowding has led to outbreaks of violence and infections such as diphtheria.

The situation became even more dire yesterday with the arrival of another 700 migrants, who were brought from Dover after the Western Jet Foil processing centre was attacked with petrol bombs on Sunday.

Staff at Manston warned migrants are making blades out of tent parts, loo roll holders and broken bits from the wired fence. 

It came as a damning report called for ministers to ‘get a grip’ on the crisis after a watchdog uncovered worrying conditions. Charlie Taylor, chief inspector of prisons, carried out an unannounced visit in July and found evidence of ‘exhausted’ migrants sleeping on floors and ‘impatient staff’.

The Guardian says that in the recording, the Eritrean boy can be heard speaking to a guard who is questioning him about his journey, his age and his arrival in the UK: ‘First they say: ”you are over 18”, I say I’m not. If you say you are under 18 you will be in problems. They say three times: ”if you say more than 18, if you say 19 you will go out from this place”. Other friends, too, they say ”we are 15, 16”, they say ”you are lying”.’

Refugee Council staff told the paper that the boys spoke of being put under pressure to say that they were older.

Renae Mann, executive director of services at the Refugee Council, told the paper: ‘This autumn, our staff have seen unprecedented and overwhelming numbers of unaccompanied refugee children who are being incorrectly identified by immigration officers as adults.’

Maddie Harris, of Humans for Rights Network, added: ‘It is in the interest of the Government to treat these children as adults as it provides them with opportunity to remove them from the UK.’

A Home Office spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘We take allegations like this extremely seriously. The safeguarding and welfare of UASCs is our utmost priority.

‘Children are at risk when asylum seeking adults claim to be children, or children are wrongly treated as adults.

‘All those who claim to be unaccompanied children are age assessed by officials. Suggestions that Border Force officials asked asylum seekers to lie about their age are baseless speculation.’

‘The safeguarding and welfare of unaccompanied asylum-seeker children is our utmost priority.

‘Children are at risk when asylum-seeking adults claim to be children, or children are wrongly treated as adults. 

‘All those who claim to be unaccompanied children are age-assessed by officials. Suggestions that border force officials asked asylum seekers to lie about their age are baseless speculation.’

It comes as migrants are being moved out of an overcrowded immigration centre.

The union representing Border Force staff working at the Manston site in Kent said the Home Office hoped to take 400 people out of the site today.

Lucy Moreton, of the Union for Borders, Immigration and Customs (ISU), also said the Government department had not responded to its requests for increased support for staff working at the processing centre near Ramsgate.

People thought to be migrants wait to be processed at the Border Force compound in Dover

A coach full of migrants leaving the Manston camp in Kent. They are not children 

First coaches carrying migrants out of Manston compound ‘to relieve pressure’ on ‘inhumane’ processing centre set off 

The first coaches carrying migrants out of the overcrowded immigration centre in Kent where conditions have been described as ‘inhumane’ have set off – as Government ministers made the startling warning that 50,000 people are expected to cross the Channel this year.

Dozens of coaches with heavily tinted windows have today taken migrants at a former RAF base in Manston to hotels or hostels around Britain.

Some of those inside waved or gave thumbs up signs as they left, clearly relieved at leaving the centre which was described as ‘being like a pressure cooker.’ 

The Manston migrant centre, which opened in January 2022 was initially designed to hold up to 1,600 people for no more than 48 hours but instead has become a temporary home to almost 4,000 migrants, leading to outbreaks of diphtheria, scabies, MRSA and violence. Many of those staying in Manston are women and children and are believed to come from Syria, Afghanistan and Iran.

The exodus of the migrants came as the union representing Border Force workers at Manston said that the Home Office intended to move 400 people out of the site on Tuesday followed by a similar number over the proceeding days.

Two coaches with heavily tinted windows were seen leaving the centre at around 4.15pm on Tuesday. It appeared the buses were full of people. Another coach entered the site at around 4.25pm.

A Home Office spokesman said the department would not provide a ‘running commentary’ on the number of people currently at the site.

It is unclear whether those moved from Manston will be taken to hotels or alternative accommodation.

The site, located at a former Ministry of Defence fire training centre, opened in January 2022 and was designed to hold up to 1,600 people for no more than 24 hours.

But on Monday Sir Roger Gale, the Conservative MP for the North Thanet constituency which includes Manston, said there were currently 4,000 people being held at the site and the situation there was a ‘breach of humane conditions’.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Ms Moreton said: ‘I don’t know yet how many will go today but yesterday we were told the aim was to move 400.

‘Sadly, nothing is being done to relieve the pressure on staff.

‘We have asked the Home Office for increased support, for wellbeing and mental health services and for assurances to address staff concerns around the legality of instructions they are being given, the sustainability for the short and medium term and any ongoing threat to staff.

‘The Home Office have not replied.’

The department has been contacted for comment.

Meanwhile the British Red Cross said ‘immediate action’ needs to be taken to remedy the situation at Manston.

Alex Fraser, director of refugee services and restoring family links at the charity, said: ‘We are extremely concerned about the escalating humanitarian situation at Manston.

‘It’s clear that immediate action is required to ensure that the men, women and children who have just made a dangerous and potentially traumatic journey have their basic needs met in a safe environment.

‘No one should experience overcrowded accommodation that puts them at risk of disease and potentially being detained unlawfully. We know from our work supporting people in similar temporary accommodation what a damaging impact it can have on them.

‘Sadly, the serious problems at Manston are indicative of the wider issues facing the asylum system.

‘The UK Government needs to urgently look at ways of reducing the backlog of asylum decisions, including making quicker decisions for nationalities who typically have their asylum claims approved, and providing more safe routes so people who have been forced to leave their homes do not have to make dangerous journeys and gamble with their lives.

‘Our country has a proud history of helping people fleeing war and persecution. It doesn’t matter how you got here, everyone deserves to be treated with compassion and humanity once you’re on our shores.’

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