UK asylum center criticized for overcrowding now empty: Reports

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An asylum processing center embroiled in an overcrowding row is now empty, British media said Tuesday, after a week of no new migrants making the trip across the Channel from France.

A record 42,000 migrants have been intercepted and brought ashore so far this year, testing the country’s ability to process and house the new arrivals.

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The government faced criticism earlier this month after reports said some 4,000 people were being held at its main Manston reception facility near Dover on the English south coast.

It is meant to hold just 1,600, leading to concerns about human rights abuses at the site.

At around the same time, firebombs were also thrown at another reception facility in Dover by a man who was later found dead, leading to some relocations to Manston.

However, interior ministry sources confirmed to various UK media that Manston was now empty, after everybody being temporarily housed there was moved into hotels.

The facility remains open and will still be used as required to conduct initial checks on arriving migrants, the reports added.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Home Office when contacted by AFP.

Official figures show that no new arrivals were recorded since November 14 by the defense ministry, which since April has been spearheading the operational response to small boat migration in the Channel.

That day, 400 migrants arrived on eight boats, according to the ministry’s statistics.

The rising numbers have also caused a logjam in asylum claims and increased accommodation costs estimated by the UK government at £6.8 million ($7.8 million) a day, straining local services and fueling public anger.

Responding to questions about whether Manston was now empty, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said the site “by design is meant to be a temporary holding facility.”

“Obviously there were immediate challenges, particularly after the attack at the other center, which caused numbers to spike,” he added.

“So you would expect numbers to be relatively low on a daily basis as people are moved through quickly.”

The UK last week agreed to pay France another 72.2 million euros ($74.1 million) to prevent the crossings, under a new deal seen as a sign of improving ties between the neighbors.

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