Wednesday 1 September 2021
Last week the government announced its intention to continue to use Napier Barracks for temporary accommodation for asylum seekers for a further five years. An agreement has been reached between the Home Office, the Ministry of Defence and the house builder Taylor Wimpey who have acquired the site, that means it will now not be required for the construction of new homes until 2026. As a result of this the Home Office will seek to continue to use Napier Barracks until that year.
People who enter the UK from Afghanistan through the official resettlement scheme, and others who come to this country through the United Nations safe routes for refugees will not be accommodated at Napier Barracks. Instead it will be left for those who have arrived in this country by other means, including crossing the English channel in small boats, and having claimed asylum have no other place to stay.
I have long opposed the use of Napier Barracks for asylum accommodation, as has Folkestone and Hythe District Council. The housing of several hundred people, on a single site with limited facilities and little to do, was always going to cause problems, and so it has proved. These problems have been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic and the protracted length of stay of people who have been accommodated there. Consideration also needs to be given to the residential community that lives around the Barracks site. My preference would have been for the Home Office to allow its initial 12-month lease to come to an end in September and find alternative accommodation for the asylum seekers.
I understand that the arrival of large numbers of refugees from Afghanistan will put pressure on other temporary accommodation that is available to the Home Office for asylum seekers. We have a duty to stand by those citizens of Afghanistan who worked to support our efforts to bring peace and stability to that country. This may have required a short and temporary extension to the Home Office lease at Napier, but not a need to use the site for a further five years. We are yet to hear from the government as well whether the continued use of Napier Barracks will mean that local hotels are no longer needed for asylum accommodation.
The high-profile nature of Napier Barracks has also attracted a series of demonstrations over the last year, and its management has taken up resources from the local authorities. We need to know what extra funds will be available from the Home Office in order to support the ongoing use of the Barracks. Over the next week I will be discussing these matters with our local council and with the Home Office.