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Support in Folkestone for asylum-seekers in Napier Barracks.

Online event will throw light on Napier Barracks scandal

Following the mass outbreak of Covid-19 at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, where several hundred asylum-seekers are being kept in inhumane conditions, Hastings Community of Sanctuary has arranged an online event next Monday to provide first-hand accounts of what is happening there. Nick Terdre reports. Photos by Care4Calais.

Alarmed by events at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, where the Home Office has housed 430 migrants who have made a claim asylum, Hastings Community of Sanctuary (HCoS), in conjunction with Hastings Supports Refugees, has arranged an online event for next Monday.

The over-crowded and deprived conditions in the barracks led to a mass outbreak of Covid-19 in late January, as Felicity Laurence of HCoS’s campaigns team reported in HOT.

Subsequently about 100 of the men, who had returned negative coronavirus tests, were moved to separate accommodation. This left more than 300 in the barracks, divided in smaller bubbles, of whom 120 had tested positive.

A number have since been moved out to alternative accommodation, some to hotels. According to Laurence, who has been in touch with one of those inside the barracks who contracted Covid, the numbers are now down to around 220. All have been confined to the barracks because of presence of Covid – they had hoped to be allowed out today, but have been told their isolation will continue following two more positive tests.

Message for the Home Secretary.

Even before Covid struck, the conditions imposed by the Home Office’s contractor Clearsprings had aroused widespread condemnation, with those consigned to the barracks complaining of lack of heating, inedible food, no proper drinking water and overcrowding. A hunger strike in protest took place in January.

There have also been suicide attempts, and some have found their treatment so degrading that they have decided to try and return to the Continent – perhaps the unstated objective of the regime imposed by Home Office.

“Less than human”

In a letter to The Guardian Laurence wrote that the men in the barracks were “acutely aware of their status as less than human; they complain of being treated like animals.”

Among those calling for a change in policy are several Conservative MPs with barracks in their constituencies used to house asylum-seekers. They include the former immigration minister Caroline Noakes, who said the use of barracks was intended to make the country appear to asylum-seekers “as difficult and inhospitable as possible.”

Asylum-seekers in Folkestone with a Care4Calais worker.

When HCoS members took the matter up with MP Sally-Ann Hart, she expressed full support for the Home Office policy of housing asylum-seekers in barracks. Responding to the widespread criticism of this policy, immigration minister Chris Philp told the Commons: “[The barracks] were good enough for the armed services and they are certainly more than good enough for people who have arrived in this country seeking asylum. We fully comply with all the relevant guidelines… No apology is due and certainly none will be made.”

HOT has also asked Hart for a comment.

“We know that this kind of treatment of people seeking asylum is planned to be extended in the longer term,” Laurence said. “Only public outrage and protest will bring about change to the Home Office’s current policies and future plans.”

Legal challenges have also been launched against the Home Office on behalf of asylum-seekers housed in barracks. If successful, they could potentially serve as a precedent and put a stop to the use of barracks to accommodate asylum-seekers.

The online session arranged by HCoS on the evening of Monday 15th is intended to throw light on this particular example of how the Home Office’s policy of creating a hostile environment for refugees plays out in practice. A first-hand account of events at the barracks will be provided by Clare Moseley, the founder of Care4Calais, whose team organises practical help and legal assistance for the men in the barracks, and who has featured in many national reports on the matter.

One of those who have been held in Napier will also describe his experience. Jay Kramer, former councillor and co-chair of the HCoS campaigns team, will present a briefing on Clearsprings, and there will be an opportunity to put questions to the speakers.

Challenging the Barracks:  online event, Monday 15 February, 7-8.30pm. Register here.

Various petitions are in circulation calling for an end to housing asylum-seekers in barracks:
Petition on launched by HCoS
Freedom from Torture


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Posted 15:32 Thursday, Feb 11, 2021 In: Politics

Also in: Politics

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