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Minister Says Fixing Asylum System Is "Not Going To Happen Overnight"

Mark Harper said there was "no easy solutions" to the surge in Channel crossings (Alamy)

3 min read

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has said there is "no simple solution" to easing pressures at the Manston migrant centre but insisted it was the Home Office's top priority.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has faced growing pressure over the situation at the Manston migrant centre in Kent after reports the site, designed to accommodate 1,600 people, had at it's peak held around 4,000.

Worsening conditions as a result of the crowding has led to outbreaks of disease, and threats against staff.

Harper said this morning that "progress" had been made to reduce numbers, but admitted solutions were "not going to happen overnight".

"I know it is now a priority for [the Immigration Minister] and the Home Secretary to enable us to get migrants out of that site faster than they are arriving to reduce the pressure," he told Sky News.

"That has started to happen but of course, it is reasonable to say it is not going to happen overnight. There are no simple solutions here.

"They're very difficult. The government is putting the steps in place to procure more accommodation."

Andy Baxter, assistant general secretary of the The Prison Officers' Association, which represents 170 members working on the site, said those held at the camp have started making threats of self-harm and hunger strikes as they demand answers over their treatment.

"Our members are facing threats from people constantly saying 'What's happening to me? Where am I going? When will I be getting moved on?'," he said.

Braverman continues to face criticism over her description of the record numbers of Channel crossings as an "invasion on the south coast" just a day after a firebombing attack on a migrant centre which is now being investigated by counter-terrorism police.

But Harper refused to directly criticise the comments saying it was "important" for the public to have "confidence" in Braverman's focus on the issue.

"Every politician chooses to express themselves in the way that they do," he said.

"What is important is the Home Secretary was trying to convey to the House of Commons that she understood the scale of the challenge so that people at home who are concerned about this issue know it is an important priority for her to deal with this problem."

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, who visited the site on Tuesday evening, insisted that numbers would continue to drop as the government increases its efforts to find alternative accommodation for the new arrivals.

"Unless we receive an unexpectedly high number of migrants in small boats in the coming days, numbers will fall significantly this week," he said.

"It's imperative that the site returns to a sustainable operating model and we are doing everything we can to ensure that happens swiftly."

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