KentOnline: Napier Barracks in Folkestone to house asylum seekers for four more years

KentOnline: Napier Barracks in Folkestone to house asylum seekers for four more years

Article written by Sam Williams for Kent Online - published 27 August 2021

Army barracks in Kent will be used to house asylum seekers for a further four years, it has been revealed.

The Home Office took over the running of Napier Barracks, in Folkestone, last September as it dealt with an influx of people arriving in the UK to seek asylum.

It was intended to be used for a 12-month period to accommodate single, adult men, but it has been plagued with issues ever since, including protests, arrests and a fire.

Today, Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) revealed the government is extending its use of Napier until September 2025.

The authority has expressed its disappointment over the decision, as has MP for the district Damian Collins.

Cllr Jenny Hollingsbee, deputy leader of FHDC, said: "The council has not had any role in this decision as the government is using special planning regulations to extend the use on a temporary basis for another four years.

"We have not changed our initial view that Napier Barracks is not the right place so this is very disappointing news and not what we had been hoping to hear.

"I have made it clear to the Home Office that if the use is to continue then it is our expectation that government will make further investment to improve facilities for those staying at the barracks.

"As a council we will continue to play an active role, alongside our partners, to monitor the use of the barracks.

"We have already held two online community meetings to enable questions from our residents to be answered and we shall continue in our role of holding to account both the Home Office and the operators who run the facility on its behalf."

Mr Collins added: "I think this is the wrong decision.

"It’s not a suitable facility for use for asylum accommodation, for so many people, on a single site, and for such a length of time.

"Napier Barracks has been beset with problems over the past year, made worse but the Covid pandemic. It has also been a constant source of disturbance for the local residential community.

"I will be discussing the proposals with the Home Office as well as our local council."

Ever since Napier was set up as accommodation for asylum seekers, there were calls for it to close.

This included from MPs, councillors, charities, church leaders and from the residents living there. The camp has been rife with issues, including demonstrations, arrests, a fire, Covid outbreaks and hunger strikes.

Those living there have reported feeling suicidal and some people have self harmed.

Two inspections have been carried out at the site, including one by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, which described living conditions as "inadequate" and "impoverished".

Others have said it was cramped and not Covid safe.

The Home Office says a Special Development Order will allow Napier Barracks to be used for the next four years to house destitute asylum seekers, and its use will remain under review.

The government body adds that the "wellbeing of asylum seekers is taken extremely seriously", and "all necessary steps are taken to protect people in our care".

The Home Office says "significant improvements" have also been made to the site over the last 12 months, including improved accommodation, more recreational and outdoor activities, additional coronavirus tests and reduced capacity.

Minister for future borders and immigration, Kevin Foster said: "The unprecedented and unacceptable rise in dangerous and illegal small boat crossings and the Covid-19 pandemic continue to put pressure on our asylum system.

“As we work to reform the broken asylum system, we must ensure we have sufficient capacity to meet our statutory duty to provide support to genuine and destitute asylum seekers.

“Our New Plan for Immigration will fix the broken asylum system; allowing us to welcome people through safe and legal routes, while preventing abuse of the system and the criminality associated with it.”

The Home Office added that people who travel to the UK through safe and legal routes - such as the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy or Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme - will not be housed in Napier Barracks.

Copyright 2021 Damian Collins. All rights reserved

Promoted by Stephen James for and on behalf of Damian Collins, both of Folkestone & Hythe Conservative Association both at 4 West Cliff Gardens, Folkestone, Kent CT20 1SP


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