Further arrests after barracks fire while residents face ‘freezing’ conditions

Michael Drummond, PA South East Correspondent
·2-min read

Watch: Fire breaks out at barracks housing asylum seekers

More arrests have been made following suspected arson at Napier Barracks in Kent, while asylum seekers living there have faced “freezing cold” days with no heating or hot water.

A fire broke out at the military site on Friday afternoon, where around 400 people had been living in questionable conditions.

The Home Office, which loaned the site from the Ministry of Defence as it struggled to house asylum seekers last year, insists the barracks is “safe and secure” despite an outbreak of Covid-19.

Recently at least 120 residents reportedly tested positive for the virus.

A total of 14 people have so far been arrested following the fire and one man has been charged, police announced on Sunday.

Mohammed Ali, 31, has been charged with assault by beating, using or threatening unlawful violence and criminal damage.

Napier Barracks incident
Emergency services at an incident at Napier Barracks in Folkestone (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The Home Office said windows had been smashed and a building had been set alight during the incident.

However, police said on Friday that it would be “inaccurate” to refer to the events as a riot and it was not being treated as such.

On Sunday, the Home Office faced allegations from migrant charity Care4Calais that residents remaining at the barracks were living in “freezing cold” conditions.

A spokesperson said: “It’s midwinter and we have been told over 100 people are sick with Covid, and there is no doctor on site.

“They have no hot water to make tea or wash.

“It is essential that steps are taken to urgently review management of the site and provide appropriate care for those who are trapped inside in terrible conditions.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Office is meeting all its statutory duties to accommodate asylum seekers.

“The Napier Barracks site is safe and secure and we are working with our provider to repair the damage that has been done.”

The department confirmed that following the fire power was lost to much of the site for a time.

Power has been restored to most of the site and is expected to be fully restored soon, the Home Office said.

Food and drink has been available to residents throughout, the department told PA.

Watch: 2020 an unprecedented year for migrant crossings