The statement made by Robert Jenrick, the Minister for Immigration, in the House of Commons on 23 November 2022.
On my appointment by the Prime Minister three weeks ago, I was appraised of the critical situation at the Manston processing centre. Within days, the situation escalated further with a terrorist attack at Western Jet Foil that forced the transfer of hundreds of additional migrants to Manston. I urgently visited Western Jet Foil and Manston within days of my appointment to assess the situation for myself and to speak with frontline staff, during which time it became clear to me that very urgent action was required.
Since then, the numbers at Manston have fallen from more than 4,000 to zero today. That would not have been possible without the work of dedicated officials across the Home Office—from the officials in cutters saving lives at sea, to the medical staff at Manston—and I put on record my sincere gratitude to them for the intense effort required to achieve that result.
To bring Manston to a sustainable footing and meet our legal and statutory duties to asylum seekers who would otherwise have been left destitute, we have had to procure additional contingency accommodation at extreme pace. In some instances, however, that has led to the Home Office and our providers failing to properly engage with local authorities and Members of Parliament. I have been clear that that is completely unacceptable and that it must change.
On Monday, a “Dear colleague” letter in my name was sent to outline a new set of minimum requirements for that engagement, backed by additional resources. This includes an email notification to local authorities and Members of Parliament no less than 24 hours prior to arrivals; a fulsome briefing on the relevant cohort, required support and dedicated point of contact; and an offer of a meeting with the local authority as soon as possible prior to arrival.
I have since met chief executives and leaders of local authorities across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, among many other meetings, to improve our engagement. We discussed their concerns and outlined the changes that we intend to make together. I have also met our providers to convey my concerns and those conveyed to me by hon. Members on both sides of the House in recent weeks, and to agree new standards of engagement and conduct from them.
These new standards will lead to a modest improvement, but I am clear that much more needs to be done, so this performance standard will be reviewed weekly with a view to improving service levels progressively as quickly as we can. In the medium term, we are committed to moving to a full dispersal accommodation model, which would be fairer and cheaper. We continue to pursue larger accommodation sites that are decent but not luxurious, because we want to make sure that those in our care are supported appropriately but that the UK is a less attractive destination for asylum shoppers and economic migrants. That is exactly what the Home Secretary and I intend to achieve.