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FACT SHEET: Short Term Holding Facilities and processing centres for small boats crossings

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Today Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons published a report into Dover short term holding facilities.

This report found that all those arriving were treated with kindness and respect by staff.

However, it also raised a number of concerns about the facilities – including that individuals arrived at a “building site” and that the Home Office should have predicted high levels of arrivals.  Below is our response, from a Home Office spokesperson:

We take the welfare of people in our care extremely seriously. We are fully adhering to our statutory duties to ensure our facilities are decent and humane.

We have also improved both our facilities and the way we deal with arrivals in response to the unprecedented rise in small boat crossings.

These crossings are dangerous, illegally-facilitated and unnecessary. We are committed to fixing the asylum system, to make it fairer and firmer, compassionate to those who need help and welcoming people through safe and legal routes.

It is inaccurate to say that these numbers are predictable, this issue is complex and we are doing all we can to stop these crossings and make this route unviable.

These journeys are not only dangerous and illegally-facilitated but also unnecessary – France is a safe country with a well-functioning asylum system and there is no need to leave France by small boat.

We are committed to fixing the asylum system, to make it fairer and firmer, compassionate to those who need help and welcoming people through safe and legal routes.

We take the welfare of people in our care very seriously, and are committed to ensuring our short-term holding facilities are safe, secure and humane and follow the latest guidance from Public Health England.

We are adhering to our statutory duties in all aspects, from safeguarding children, to providing the necessary medical requirements to those who have undertaken this dangerous journey.

= All Detainee Custody Officers undertake training in Cultural Diversity, Disability, Mental Health Awareness, Adult Safeguarding, Human Trafficking & Modern Slavery.

We have a programme of continuous improvements and are looking at other options all the time – this threat is constantly evolving, so our response must too.


The Inspectorate reviewed short term holding facilities and Processing Centres. These are not all detention centres.

Tug Haven

Tug Haven is not a short term holding facility – it is an area where we triage arrivals to identify medical needs, vulnerabilities and any known criminality before we can move them to suitable locations as quickly as possible.

The increase in small boats arrivals meant we began to implement significant improvements. These were underway at the time of the inspection, and the improvements we have already put in place has totally overhauled the way we deal with arrivals.

These improvements include:

  • military grade tents with heating and air conditioning units;
  • hardstanding flooring;
  • additional shelters were being procured before the inspection and have since been delivered and are now in operation;
  • a large heated portacabin for families, unaccompanied children and vulnerable adults;
  • additional handwashing stations and toilet facilities across the whole site;
  • strict quarantine and self-isolation measures with additional medical support; and
  • surged additional staff to reduce the time people spend at Tug Haven.

Kent Intake Unit

The Kent Intake Unit (KIU) is at the forefront of the operational response to migrants arriving across the channel in small boats. KIU forms part of the National Asylum Intake Unit (NAIU), which has significantly increased its holding and processing capacity in response to the rise in small boats arrivals.

At the Kent Intake Unit, we recognise there are shortcomings with the current facility, and we are committed to delivering long term, sustainable accommodation solutions, options for which are currently being explored. In the meantime, works are being undertaken in the existing accommodation to deliver improved facilities. These improvements include:

  • redecoration;
  • alterations to the Atrium to provide a safe and secure contingency waiting area during spikes in intake (such as the arrival of several small boats in quick succession); with access to clothing, toilets, and food; and extending on-site medical care at the Freight Services Building and to Frontier House

Yarls Wood

The Home Office takes the welfare of detainees in its care very seriously.

For transferring migrants at Yarls Wood, a series of improvements has also been made to ease the arrivals process. This includes:

  • Supporting the staggered arrival by coaches
  • Shorter waiting times for migrants upon arrival
  • Improved communication to share the estimated arrival times

For transferring migrants at Yarl’s Wood, a series of improvements has also been made to ease the arrivals process. This includes:

  • supporting the staggered arrival by coaches;
  • shorter waiting times for migrants upon arrival; and
  • improved communication to share the estimated arrival times

Unaccompanied asylum seeking children

The welfare of unaccompanied asylum seeking children is an absolute priority. Under Section 55 of the Borders Citizenship and Immigration Act, we are duty-bound to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

  • Young people (both UASCs and family groups) are prioritised on their arrival at the KIU, to ensure that they remain for the shortest possible period, whilst the necessary welfare and security checks are undertaken, following which they are collected by a local authority and cared for by social services.
  • KIU includes a non-detained facility (called the ‘Atrium’) where asylum claimants are able to wait once their asylum claim has been registered and it has a specific area for minors and other vulnerable customers which is operated by the Refugee Council (NGO) under contract from the Home Office. During times of high intake these facilities have assisted in significantly in reducing the period of time that claimants remain in detention.
  • Age checks are also conducted on all individuals prior to any transfer to a short-term holding facility.
  • We have contracted a team of social workers as a temporary measure to deliver social work support to the Kent Intake Unit, with the aim of strengthening the unit’s age assessment and child safeguarding processes.

Preventing these crossings:

 These crossings are dangerous and illegally-facilitated, and nobody should be making them. France is a safe country and there is no need to put lives at risk by leaving by small boat.

We are going after the criminals and people smugglers who peddle lies:

  • Last week the Home Office made 15 arrests for offences related to illegal entry
  • 50 people have been convicted this year so far for illegally bringing people into the UK
  • There have been 89 arrests in the year so far related to small boats crossings.

Working with the French:

 France is a signatory to the Refugee Convention and has a fully functioning asylum system.  These crossings are dangerous, illegally-facilitated and unnecessary as there are safe and legal routes for seeking asylum in France, and the other EU Member States that these migrants pass through on their way to the UK.

We have recently announced the appointment of Dan O’Mahoney as Clandestine Channel Threat Commander. This appointment is vital to cutting this route by bringing together all operational partners in the UK and in France.

 A key part of preventing people from leaving France and coming to the UK is ensuring we have the cooperation of our French counterparts. We are making good progress in this area:

  • Since last Saturday (17th October) the French have prevented more than 550 people from making this crossing.
  • However, we acknowledge the numbers still arriving are completely unacceptable.
  • We continue to work with French authorities closely and in July the Home Secretary entered into an agreement with her French counterpart to create the Joint Intelligence Centre (JIC) to assist in combating the organised criminal gangs that facilitate these dangerous journeys, to dismantle and disrupt activity, preventing embarkation.
  • We continue to discuss a new UK-France joint operational plan to support the shared aim.

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