The immigration minister has refused to be drawn on the circumstances of a man who died in hospital following a stay at the Manston migrant processing centre, saying it is important to treat his case with “respect”.
Robert Jenrick said it is known when the man arrived in the country, but insisted he could not go into specifics because efforts are ongoing to contact the individual’s next of kin.
He also revealed that the number of migrants at Manston now stands at roughly 300 – and is expected to fall further – following a high of more than 4,000.
The small boats crisis has dominated headlines over the past few weeks, with ministers under fire for overcrowding chaos at the holding centre in Kent.
It is understood the individual in question passed away in hospital on Saturday morning after “becoming unwell”, and that he arrived in the UK as part of a small boat crossing on November 12.
He is believed to have been taken ill on Friday evening.
A post-mortem examination is due to be carried out and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has been notified.
Mr Jenrick echoed the Home Office’s position that there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that the death was caused by an infectious disease.
“The matter is now really with the coroner and with the independent investigator, the IOPC, but I can say that from the evidence that we have… (he) didn’t have an infectious disease like diphtheria,” he told LBC.
“We suspect this was an individual who was unwell when they came to the country.”
Pressed on when the man arrived in the UK, the immigration minister said: “We do know that the date that he entered the country and how he was cared for whilst he was here.
“I can’t release the specific details… I’m afraid. We’re still trying to contact his next of kin, and so it is important for us to treat this with respect.”
He told Times Radio it was a “very sad incident” and is now “a matter for the coroner”.
Mr Jenrick said there are currently roughly 300 people at Manston, and suggested this number will continue to drop “as more people move on to other accommodation”.
“There’s been a huge effort over the last two or three weeks to reduce the population of the site from over 4,000 to where it is today,” he said.
“It’s functioning as it should be now, which is as a short-term processing unit where people’s security details like their biometrics are taken, and then they’re removed as quickly as possible and sent on to other accommodation.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said over the weekend no further details such as the age or nationality of the man who died after staying at Manston would be released at that point in time.
Asylum seekers are meant to be at the site for only short periods of time while undergoing security and identity checks.
Some people have been held for longer stretches due to a lack of alternative accommodation, with concerns raised over poor conditions.