Plans to manage migrant arrivals until 2030 suggests Government ‘not confident’

The Manston immigration short-term holding facility in Kent(Gareth Fuller/PA)
The Manston immigration short-term holding facility in Kent(Gareth Fuller/PA) The Manston immigration short-term holding facility in Kent(Gareth Fuller/PA)

Fresh plans for a reception centre at Manston for at least six years suggests the Government are “not terribly confident they are going to be able to control illegal migration traffic”, a Kent MP has said.

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale said, speaking with Home Office officials, that even if all the boats were stopped, they expect there will be people trying to get into the country for the foreseeable future.

The Home Office has earmarked at least £700 million to manage the arrival of migrants on small boats until 2030, with the option of extending the contracts until 2034, according to commercial plans highlighted by the BBC.

The contract bid, posted on the Government website, said it was looking for management and services for a national reception centre at Manston, which is currently being transformed by the Home Office to create “permanent, purpose-built facilities”.

Sir Roger said he has no particular issue with the site itself, which is “mainly well-run”, causes “no problems” for local people and creates jobs.

He said: “What is planned, that is the grey area, I have no particular problem with them replacing tented marquees with brick-build buildings if that is what they propose to do.”

But he expects assurances from previous ministers that the facility will be temporary to be continued, and that the land would then be used to house local families in need.

The Conservative MP also criticised previous Home Office ministers over communication and urged that local parties be properly consulted on future plans.

He said: “There has been a lamentable and discourteous level of contact between Home Office ministers and the local authority and myself.

“I understand someone from Kent County Council has been consulted. They have no planning responsibility for it at all. This is where things start to get derailed.”

The Home Office bid is also looking for commercial partners at a centre at Western Jet Foil in Dover, for registering and processing people arriving in the UK via the English Channel and providing medical checks.

The website adds: “The aim of these centres is to provide a safe and secure environment, allowing Border Force to process arrivals with dignity and respect.”

It comes as the Government has said its fresh Rwanda Bill, which would allow asylum seekers in the UK to be deported to Kigali, is a key part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plan to “stop the boats” by acting as a deterrent for people seeking to cross the English Channel.

Asked about the contract bids, a Home Office spokesman said: “This is an ongoing procurement project therefore it would be inappropriate to comment.”