Published: 16:47, 05 February 2021
| Updated: 18:16, 05 February 2021
Shocking revelations of drug-taking, illicit sex and fake Covid results have emerged at a mass testing centre in Kent.
Staff working at the former Manston Airport site, which was set up by the government to test lorry drivers heading for Europe, have been warned following reports of a number of concerning incidents.
A worker spoke to KentOnline about what is happening at the site
These include sexual encounters between employees brought in to manage the testing operation and reports of staff routinely taking and offering cannabis and cocaine to each other.
A warning letter sent to staff by security contractor Rightguard also reveals some lorry drivers have been presenting forged papers showing negative Covid test results.
The letter, which has been leaked to KentOnline, reveals the disturbing antics have led to an investigation and stark warning from the security firm.
It says: "The senior management team have been made aware of a number of incidents and allegations that have recently occurred across day and night shifts.
"Drugs: Over the past 10 days there have been a number of reports of staff taking and offering drugs to others whilst on shift.
"Two operatives have been searched and found in possession of drugs and have been dismissed from the site.
"Verbal/aggressive behavior: Incidents have been escalated around verbal abuse towards a member of the army/Gurkhas on the night shift.
"Sex: information has been given to senior managers regarding sexual encounters that are taking place on the site during the night shift."
It also refers to vehicles "clocking up a lot of miles" on night shifts.
"Investigations are underway," the letter adds.
'You'll see them rolling joints, and someone was caught twice with cocaine'
"Should any of the incidents and allegations be proven, this will mean immediate dismissal of any staff involved."
A worker, speaking anonymously, says issues are rife with the younger members of staff, who do not take the job seriously.
"There's lots of young people working here and it's very cliquey," they said.
"People treat it like a social event. Some are on furlough or looking for other jobs so they don't really care about this job.
"You'll see them rolling joints, and someone was caught twice with cocaine and the police were called.
"If they drug-tested they would catch them."
The site was set up to swab lorry drivers just before Christmas after the French authorities insisted no one could enter France without a negative test result.
It left thousands of hauliers stuck at Manston over Christmas, with the backlog only cleared when hundreds of soldiers were drafted in to help with testing.
Drivers continue to be directed to Manston to be swabbed ahead of any cross-Channel travel.
Rightguard is among those contracted to help run the operation, and on its website continues to advertise roles for traffic marshals, driver welfare operatives and checkpoint staff.
In its letter to employees, it warns them of fake Covid test results being shown by lorry drivers, reiterating that all hauliers should be tested on entry to the site, even if they have a result from elsewhere.
Rightguard director Tony Smith says it is down to the due diligence of his checkpoint staff that the fake papers were found and that the matter is being dealt with by Special Branch.
He says as a collective group, they are running a huge operation and insists, to date, it has been very successful.
"This letter was a memo that went out, with guidelines, to staff," he said.
"We've got a huge number working on site and we're trying to reduce the risk of poor behaviour and to guide them along the way.
'This is a huge process, it's safely managed and I would not want all this to tarnish the hard work that is everyone is doing' - Tony Smith
"I understand how it may look and in some cases, the memo may not have been worded in the best way.
"It's not a free-for-all here; it's not a Sunday morning playing football - it's a very busy site.
"A number of the operatives working here are high-level professionals, such as ex-police, ex-prison service and ex-military personnel.
"But we've got a huge number of staff, 600-800 of all different people, and naturally some of them, a small number, need reminding about how to behave.
"We're working closely with HMRC, Kent Police and government bodies - this is a professional operation, often working in difficult conditions, and we are working hard to limit the impact on the community.
"This is a huge process, it's safely managed and I would not want all this to tarnish the hard work that is everyone is doing."
Mr Smith insists no physical sexual encounters have occurred on the site, but the anonymous worker told KentOnline it involved a male and female in an airport hangar.
Regarding allegations of abuse towards a military person, Mr Smith said: "There are often high levels of stress; we are dealing with a high volume of international lorry drivers.
"It can be a tense environment in terrible weather conditions and probably the odd word can be said, so we just want to guide people, and that's what this memo was for."
Commenting on the drugs he says they became aware of allegations of drug use on two separate occasions.
He says the people were challenged but, despite what the letter says, nothing was found and the employees chose to leave.
"We do random on-site searches as well as searches on entrance and exit," he added.
"There are a couple of other agents working on site and we undertake searches of their personnel as well."
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "These reports are concerning and we’re investigating with the company that manages the site as a matter of urgency."
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