The Home Office has been using Napier Barracks in Folkestone to house asylum seekers where 285 migrants sleep 14 to a dorm and 28 to a bathroom
Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Home Secretary Priti Patel is being taken to court over plans to keep asylum seekers in grim barracks for another four years.
Some 285 migrants are sleeping 14 to a dorm in Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, where Covid outbreaks are rife.
The High Court ruled in June that the Home Office had acted unlawfully by placing refugees in the barbed wire ringed facility – where fires broke out amid unrest in January.
Ms Patel had used emergency planning laws to take over the MoD base for 12 months.
Full planning permission was needed to continue using it beyond September 21. But she has secured it for four more years with a Special Development Order, avoiding local authority scrutiny and public consultation.
Now one volunteer who supports residents is challenging the decision in the High Court as a breach of planning control – and has crowdfunded £35,000 to fight the case.
If she wins, the Home Office could be forced to close Napier.
The woman, not named due to tension around the case, said: “Housing asylum seekers this way has been hugely damaging. A full planning application would have given local people a say and allow the full story about the terrible conditions to come out. Instead, the Home Office has sidestepped this process.
“They are still in dorms of up to 14 people. It’s very difficult to get a night’s sleep, which can impact on mental health.
“Covid is a persistent threat – there are positive cases presently.”
Do you think the Home Office should be allowed to keep using the site? Let us know in the comments
The Government borrowed Napier and a second site, Penally, in Pembrokeshire, to deal with a log jam of migrants.
Public Health England advised against putting men in the multi-occupancy buildings because of Covid risks – but the Home Office opened the site before any recommendations were implemented.
About 200 of 380 men living there in January 2021 contracted the virus – contributing to the unrest.
A damning report by a joint team from the immigration and prisons inspectorates declared the Victorian building “unfit for habitation”, with bathrooms shared by 28 people.
A judicial review in June said there needed to be “substantial improvements”.
While barbed wire was taken down, men still sleep in large dorms with just plywood and curtains to offer privacy.
Jun Pang, of human rights organisation Liberty, said: “We should all have somewhere safe to shelter, where our dignity is respected and our needs are met. Napier falls far short of this.”
An interim report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Immigration Detention said use of the barracks was inappropriate.
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Use of Penally, the other site, was discontinued in the summer.
The Home Office said: “The unprecedented and unacceptable rise in dangerous and illegal small boat crossings and the pandemic continue to put pressure on our asylum system.
“We must have sufficient capacity to meet our statutory duty to support 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.”