Tory MP slams Home Office plan for new £2m migrant centre in Dover

‘It sends the wrong message’: Tory MP slams Home Office plan for new £2m migrant reception centre in Dover amid calls for money to be spent on stopping boats crossing channel

  • The Home Office plans to spend £2m on a permanent migrant centre in Dover
  • But some MPs said it sends the signal that illegal crossings cannot be stopped 
  • Natalie Elphicke said money should be spent on stopping arrivals from crossing 
  • The Intake Unit will be ready next May, according to Home Secretary Priti Patel

A Conservative MP has slammed the Home Office’s plan to spend £2million on a permanent migrant reception centre in Dover, saying they should instead focus on ‘closing the small boats route’.

The centre is being developed at the Dover docks to process the record numbers of migrants crossing the Channel, and will allow Border Force officials to test, check, interview and feed migrants on-site.

The £2million Intake Unit, which will be converted from a disused welding site, will be ready next May, according to Home Secretary Priti Patel.

But some MPs slammed the plans and said it sends the wrong signal by suggesting that illegal cross-Channel migration cannot be prevented, The Telegraph reported.

Tory MP for Dover Natalie Elphicke, 50, instead argued that the Home Office should spend the money on trying to stop arrivals from crossing the Channel.

A centre is being developed at the Dover docks to process the record numbers of migrants crossing the Channel. Pictured: Border Force collect migrants from craft on July 22

But Tory MP for Dover Natalie Elphicke (pictured), 50, argued that the Home Office should spend the money on trying to stop arrivals from crossing the Channel

She told the publication: ‘I would rather we focused our efforts on closing the small boats route than investing more and more millions of pounds in permanent structures.’

When the multi-million pound facility was announced earlier this month, the politician said it was time to bring an end to ‘illegal and dangerous journeys’ across the Channel.

Speaking about the permanent centre, she told The Sun: ‘This sends the wrong message entirely.’

It comes after more than 2,000 have crossed the Channel so far this August, including a record-breaking 592 migrants arriving at Dover last week.

A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The number of crossings is unacceptable – that’s why we’re taking action on all fronts. 

‘Law enforcement agencies are dismantling the people smuggling gangs, joint work with the French has seen a doubling of police officers on French beaches, and we’re reforming the pull factors here at home.

‘Our strengthened agreement with the French will build on existing cooperation and further increase police patrols on beaches, improve surveillance technology and enhance intelligence sharing.

‘Our New Plan for Immigration will also reform the system to make people think again before attempting to enter this country illegally and break the business model of people smugglers.’

The £2million Intake Unit, which will be converted from a disused welding site, will be ready next May. Pictured: Border Force officials and migrants arrive in Dover on June 24

More than 2,000 have crossed the Channel so far this August, including a record-breaking 592 migrants arriving at Dover last week. Pictured: Migrants arrive at Dover on July 21

The permanent migrant reception centre is expected to be manned by more than 40 staff and will cost an estimated £1.5million each year.

In recent months, the Home Office’s current reception centre has ballooned in size under the strain of ever-growing numbers of arrivals.

It previously consisted of just a small brick building, but has since expanded into a larger complex, including a temporary tent-like structure and at least ten cabins.

The current reception centre at Tug Haven, where migrants are taken for an initial assessment after crossing the Channel, has space for about 380 people.

And it emerged earlier this month that the expanded site is still buckling under the pressure of record numbers of migrant crossings.

During a spot check, the home affairs committee found 56 asylum seekers, including babies and children, ‘packed into a small waiting room’ at the facility.

Committee chairman Yvette Cooper described the facility as ‘wholly inappropriate’ and also deemed the conditions in the temporary centre as ‘shocking’. 

Meanwhile, a damning official report, which came out last year, commented that the reception centre ‘resembled a rubble-strewn building site’.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, previously commented: ‘Detainees almost always arrived wet and cold, but then often had to spend hours in the open air or in cramped containers. 

‘Basic supplies, including dry clothing, ran out during the inspection and some detainees were placed on escort vehicles in wet clothes.’

Charities have criticised Priti Patel (pictured) and called for the establishment of more safe and legal routes for people wanting to claim asylum in the UK

The Home Office previously said that it took the welfare of migrants seriously but services were under pressure from ‘unacceptable numbers of people’ crossing the Channel with the help of traffickers.

The permanent centre is expected to be carpeted, with seats, storage facilities for migrants’ clothing, dedicated interview spaces, and places to prepare food and drinks. 

Lucy Moreton, from the Border Force and Immigration officers’ union, said: ‘It’s a recognition that this is a permanent fact of our lives going forward and we have to treat these people better than we have done.’

A Home Office spokesman told the Telegraph: ‘We are working day and night to stop dangerous small boat crossings, facilitated by criminal gangs who are putting lives at risk.

‘We seek to ensure that our staff have suitable conditions to work in and deliver for the public. 

‘The Government’s New Plan for Immigration is the only credible long-term plan to fix the broken asylum system and bring this exploitation to an end.’ 

The Home Office has repeatedly vowed to make the Channel route ‘unviable’, but numbers have risen sharply over the past two years. 

 

The Home Office previously said it took the welfare of migrants seriously but services were under pressure from ‘unacceptable numbers of people’ crossing the Channel 

Charities have criticised Priti Patel and called for the establishment of more safe and legal routes for people wanting to claim asylum in the UK.

On Sunday, Border Force rescued 285 migrants including at least five toddlers who had attempted to cross the Channel – taking the total for August to over 2,000. 

It comes after a record-breaking 592 migrants made it to Dover on a single day last week. The French authorities stopped a further 420 people in 18 boats from attempting the trip. 

The latest crossings mean that 2,184 people have already crossed the Channel in 70 small boats in August. 

The reality of the journey’s perilous nature was also made clear on Thursday when a 27-year-old Eritrean man lost his life trying to reach the UK when his boat started to sink off the French coast. 

His 22-year-old girlfriend watched helplessly as he entered the water before she was later rescued. 

A French migrant help association said she only found out later on that he had died. A manslaughter investigation is now under way in France.

The English Channel is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and the waters have claimed several lives. 

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