More asylum seekers to be sent to Napier barracks

Despite mounting evidence that the camp is not suitable for accommodation, a new intake of asylum seekers are to be sent to the controversial Napier Barracks site in Kent.

The former military site near Folkestone was emptied of its last residents over the weekend, raiding hopes that the Home Office would discontinue its use as temporary accommodation for asylum seekers.

It has however, been revealed that Clearsprings Ready Homes, the private contractor that runs the site on behalf of the Home Office, intends to bring in new arrivals.

The decision comes after significant Covid outbreak in which 50% of the near 400 residents fell sick, multiple outstanding legal challenges, the closure of a sister site in Pembrokeshire and months of revelations over the suitability of the camp.

Critics expressed anger and disappointment over the Home Office’s decision to persevere with the use of the former Ministry of Defence (MOD) site.

SNP MP and member of the home affairs select committee, Stuart McDonald said: “The Home Office doesn’t need to use these dilapidated former barracks to accommodate people fleeing war and violence but are choosing to do so anyway – despite a damning inspection and the ongoing pandemic.  That choice is a political one”.

“The whole Home Office machine is hell-bent on ensuring life for people seeking refuge is as miserable as possible in the hope it will put off others from applying for refugee status.  The use of these dilapidated barracks is shocking and shameful, but it it consistent with everything else the Home Office is doing”.

Earlier this year, the high court heard that the Home Office ignored Public Health England advice that the dormitory-style accommodation at Napier barracks, which holds up to 28 men in a single block, was not suitable during the pandemic.

An HM Inspectorate of Prisons and the independent chief inspector of Borders and Immigration published a damning report following inspections of Napier and the now closed Penally camp, branding the sites ‘filthy’ and ‘impoverished’.

Chief executive of the Refugee Council, Enver Solomon, said: “Local agencies in Kent and independent inspectors have all concluded that the barracks are unfit to house anybody.  It’s shocking that the government is ignoring this and continuing to treat people who have experienced great trauma in their lives with a complete lack of compassion and humanity”.

Lead doctor for the medical advisory advice at the Helen Bamber Foundation, Dr Jill O’Leary, who assessed former residents of Napier barracks, said: “We have consistently seen the threat these former military sites pose to the physical and mental health of residents.  We have witnessed a devastating Covid-19 outbreak due to the dormitory style accommodation, not to mention mental health crisis, self harm and suicide attempts as a result of the unsuitability of the environment”.

“The Helen Bamber Foundation gave evidence to the home affairs select committee in February detailing the level of suffering that existed in these sites.  The news that the Home Office are moving vulnerable asylum seekers back into Napier in the face of this evidence is deeply distressing to all involved.  I anticipate further needless and preventable suffering of vulnerable people as a result of this decision”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We secured permission to use Napier barracks for 12 months and while pressure on the asylum system remains will continue to make use of the site”.