Home Secretary James Cleverly (Picture: Andy Taylor)

The Home Office has done nothing to improve conditions in a remote refugee camp in Essex after three inspections, causing excessive mental distress for those kept there.
 
The independent chief inspector of borders and immigration David Neal said a lack of “purposeful” activity was “likely to have a deleterious impact on residents’ mental health”.
 
And it would lead to “heightened risk of disorder.”
 
“Hopelessness caused by boredom” among hundreds of young men at the Wethersfield airbase will “inevitably” lead to harm, he added.
 
The second letter from Neal to home office minister James Cleverly and legal migration minister Tom Pursglove came after a visit on 8 February. 
 
Neal said he had seen “no improvement” at the site.
 
“I spoke to a number of men and it was clear there was an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness caused by boredom which inevitably in my experience leads to violence.”
 
Ministers were supposed to decide last week whether to increase the number held at the site to 800.
 
“I am concerned that this expansion in numbers would significantly increase the risk of a serious incident impacting the safety and wellbeing of Home Office staff, contractors, and service users on site,” Neal wrote.
 
Neal wrote to Cleverly back in December after a visit and warned that conditions at the site would worsen mental health and relationships with staff. 
 
He told the Home Office to seek advice from prison and probation services on how to occupy “hundreds of men in an isolated camp”. But these aren’t just “men”.
 
The people abandoned in the camp have fled for their lives from war, poverty and repression—and risked everything to reach safety halfway across the world.
 
The report has led to the media worrying over the “risk” and “threat” of “criminality”, such as arson and assaults on staff.
 
It’s not wrong for those trapped in the base to rise up in protest. They shouldn’t be subjected to such squalid conditions.
 
The reported rise in violence, triggering Neal’s inspections, is a valid reaction to being locked up and left in the middle of an abandoned airfield. 
 
Former RAF base at MDP Wethersfield in Essex opened in June 2023 and with 967 people sent there while they waited on their asylum application in the first five months.
 
The site is ringed in by security fences and round the clock security guards and CCTV. 
 
There are no pavements on the roads around the site or public transport.
 
The Home Office said it “disagreed with this assessment” and claims residents have access to medical and mental health support—and have a 24/7 helpline. 
 
Keeping refugees in dingy conditions is part of the Tories’ hostile environment to deter refugees from coming to Britain.
 
Anti-racists must protest against all racist treatment—and demand better treatment for vulnerable refugees.
 

For information on SUTR’s National Stop Racism, Stop the Hate protests on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 March go to tinyurl.com/SUTRMarch16and17

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