Hundreds of people have held a protest in the rain outside Manston detention centre in Kent to demand its closure.
Demonstrators from Action Against Detention and Deportation chanted and banged metal pots outside the site in Thanet, which has been at the centre of a political row after it became dangerously overcrowded.
Protesters shouted “shut Manston down”, while some unfurled a red banner reading: “The enemy doesn’t arrive by boat – he arrives by limousine.”
Several people raised placards reading “no one is illegal”, “refugees welcome” and “[home secretary Suella] Braverman out now”.
Videos posted online by protesters showed what appeared to be a couple with a young baby waving at them from inside the facility.
It comes after it was revealed that the former military base, which opened as a processing centre for asylum seekers in February with the intention of holding a maximum of 1,600 people for 24 hours at a time, was housing about 4,000 people for weeks on end.
Some asylum seekers described the conditions at the airfield, which provides tented accommodation, as being like “a prison”, with reports of an outbreak of diphtheria.
On Wednesday, a young girl threw a bottle containing a letter over the perimeter fence to a PA news agency photographer. The letter said there were pregnant women and sick detainees inside the centre.
By Friday, Downing Street said the number of people at Manston had been reduced to 2,600.
Meanwhile, the Observer has revealed that the Home Office is hiring asylum decision-makers from customer service and sales positions at McDonald’s, Tesco and Aldi as part of a recruitment drive to clear the huge backlog of asylum applications.
The new recruits, hired through online advertising and high street recruitment agencies, have no prior experience or knowledge of the asylum system.
Despite being promised comprehensive training, decision-makers reported being “left to fend for themselves” after two days, and having to conduct complex interviews and make “life or death” decisions.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The claims being made here are baseless. We have increased recruitment of asylum case workers by 80% since 2019 … All recruits must meet minimum civil service recruitment standards and are supported with extensive training and support by senior trainers and technical experts.
“Our processes are underpinned by a robust framework of safeguards and quality checks, ensuring that claims are properly considered, decisions are sound, and that protection is granted to those who genuinely need it.”