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Minister Admits He's "Obviously Not Comfortable" Asylum Seekers Could Be Held Illegally

Ministers are facing a judicial review over the treatment of migrants in Kent (Alamy)

3 min read

Climate Minister Graham Stuart has admitted the UK's asylum system was "struggling to cope" after a legal review was launched over the treatment of migrants.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has suggested migrants were being held illegally at the Manston processing centre as he said efforts were being made to return it to a "legally compliant site".

The Home Office is facing a judicial review into conditions at the site, where around 3,500 people are being held despite it having a capacity of around 1,600.

The legal action will focus on claims that migrants are being held beyond the 24-hour mandated period and that overcrowding has led to outbreaks of disease at the Kent site.

Climate Minister Graham Stuart told Sky News on Thursday that the government was "obviously" not comfortable with the legally compromising situation. 

"We want to tackle it, we want to get a grip," he said. 

"That is exactly what the Home Secretary is focussed on and I think she's got her priorities right, and that is making sure we do continue to treat people in a compassionate way.

"But fundamentally, behind this is all these illegal gangs, and British people look on it with disbelief."

PoliticsHome on Wednesday reported frustration from local leaders in Kent, who have written to the Home Office accusing them of an "unsustainable and unacceptable" response to the crisis.

They accused Home Secretary Suella Braverman of having "failed at every turn" to engage with councils and residents, saying that local services in Kent were facing unprecedented pressures as a result of the numbers of migrants being held in the area.

Responding to the claims, Stuart blamed the "incredible surge" of migrants in recent weeks.

"We recognise the people of Kent and public services in Kent should not be carrying that burden alone," he said. 

"That is why we are looking to bring in all these measures and that is our focus... We are not claiming it is acceptable right now, and that is why we are taking steps to put it right."

He added: "It is not where we want it to be right now and we are simply looking to balance that out, thousands more hotel rooms have been sorted out but it's unacceptable to the British people and we need to do more to tackle the traffickers in what is an unprecedented surge in illegal immigration."

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