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Napier Barracks: Outrage over decision to keep ‘unfit’ and ‘squalid’ refugee camp open until 2025

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Original article from Kent Live

The Home Office has announced that Napier Barracks will remain in operation as an asylum seeker housing facility until 2025 amid public outcry from refugee charities and advocates.

The barracks have been the object of harsh criticism since they began being used in 2020 to house male refugees, between the ages of 18 and 30, who had crossed the channel to apply for asylum status in the UK.

The facility has proven unpopular beyond the sphere of refugee charities, with the local council and opposition MPs being amongst the camp's most vocal critics.

Read more: Urgent advice issued to everybody who wants to help Afghan refugees

The original deadline for its return to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was next month, but its use is to be extended until as late as 2025, the PA news agency has reported.

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The Home Office has insisted it would be an “insult” to suggest the site is not “adequate” for asylum seekers.

The department confirmed on Friday evening that the use of Napier Barracks is set to continue for the next five years and remain under review.

Napier Barracks dormitories were ruled to be adequate by the High Court, but lawyers for those housed there called them "squalid" and inhuamne.

However, the refugee charity sector has been overwhelmingly critical of the decision.

Bridget Chapman, spokesperson for Kent Refugee Action Network, said: "We are horrified, but not entirely surprised, because it's entirely in line with the Home Office's seeming determination to appear as unwelcoming as possible.

"In the equalities impact assessment they were forced to do, they admitted that they didn't want to appear too welcoming – this is their way of doing that, and frankly it's really shameful."

Ms Chapman also stated confusion at the legality of the use of the barracks, as just months prior, "the High Court ruled that the Home Office should stop using the facility".

A view of Napier Barracks in Folkestone in February

Folkestone & Hythe District Council deputy leader Jenny Hollingsbee said: “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.”

This stance is not echoed by refugee charities and humanitarian organisations, however.

Ms Chapman, speaking on behalf of KRAN said that Napier Barracks, "shouldn't be used in any context at all."

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants also tweeted: "Gov has said they'll keep Napier Barracks open until 2025.

"The camp was deemed unfit for human habitation by the High Court – no human being should be housed there now, let alone in 4 years time!

Handout photo of Napier Barracks from prisoner inspection in 2020

"People seeking safety here deserve better."

Minister for Future Borders and Immigration Kevin Foster said the “unprecedented and unacceptable rise” in small boat crossings and the Covid-19 pandemic “continue to put pressure on our asylum system”.

He added: “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.”

Despite the emphasis placed on the rising numbers of refugees arriving by boat, the total number of asylum applications made by those entering the UK from all routes has dropped by 9% in the last year.

Original Article