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Home Office warned of ‘poor management’ of infectious diseases at Manston in July

Migrants with symptoms of diphtheria are isolating at the Manston centre (PA)
Migrants with symptoms of diphtheria are isolating at the Manston centre (PA)

The Home Office office was warned of “poor” facilities for managing infectious diseases at the Manston migrant centre four months before a man died from what may have been diphtheria.

A HM Chief Inspector of Prisons report of the asylum processing centre in Kent, which has struggled with overcrowding and outbreaks of disease, was given to the Home Office at the end of July.

It said “facilities for the management of detainees with Covid or other infectious diseases were poor”.

“Detainees were placed in a claustrophobic portacabin with no clear responsibility assigned for managing their care,” the post-inspection briefing said.

“Paramedic staff were unsure of any guidance, policy or procedure for the management of infectious diseases.”

The briefing, on an unannounced inspection of the Manston centre between July 25-28, was shared with the leadership team before inspectors left the site.

It comes as health authorities confirmed diphtheria cases among asylum seekers in the UK rose to 50, up from just two nationally in 2021.

That’s an increase from 39 diphtheria cases identified on November 10.

Migrants with symptoms of the disease are being isolated at the Manston centre while they are being treated, it was revealed on Monday, after concerns were raised with migrants being moved to hotels.

A man from the Manston centre died at a hospital on November 19. He is believed to have entered the UK on a small boat seven days earlier.

His death may have been caused by a diphtheria infection, the Home Office said last week.

“Initial test results processed by a local hospital for an infectious disease were negative, but a follow-up PCR test was positive, indicating that diphtheria may be the cause of the illness,” it said in a statement.

The Manston centre was emptied of migrants after reports of overcrowding, when as many as 4,000 people were detained at the site which is designed to hold just 1,600.

But the Association of Directors of Public Health has criticised the rush to transfer asylum seekers to hotels without notifying health authorities.

Professor Jim McManus, President of the Association of Directors of Public Health said: “We have had no direct engagement from the Home Office and, although we have offered our support, we have not yet received a response.

“The lack of communication and collaboration has put both asylum seekers and potentially hotel workers at avoidable and preventable risk. It has also created additional and preventable burdens on already stretched local health systems.”

On Monday, immigration minister Robert Jenrick announced asylum seekers with symptoms of diphtheria will now be isolated for a “short period” at Manston, or in designated isolation hotels.

Diphtheria vaccinations are being offered to people at Manston.

Diphtheria is a highly contagious bacterial infection that is spread by coughs and sneezes or through close contact with someone who is infected.

Since 2018 the World Health Organisations has reported a rise in cases in places including Indonesia, India, South America and Africa.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We take both the welfare of those in our care and our wider public health responsibilities extremely seriously and are responding to all of the findings in the His Majesty’s inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) report.

“We work closely with a range of partners within the community including local authorities and health leads to make sure information is shared in a timely way and that everyone leaving Manston is given access to appropriate treatment.

“We continue to work closely with the NHS and UKHSA to support the individuals affected and limit the transmission of infection.”