'Serious error of judgement' to use Army bases in Kent and Wales to house asylum seekers

·2-min read

Using military barracks to house asylum seekers was a "serious error of judgement" after a major coronavirus outbreak at one site, an inspection has ruled.

Conditions at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent and Penally Camp in Wales were "utterly unacceptable" and represented "serious failings on the part of the Home Office", chief inspector David Bolt said.

Both sites were used to house hundreds of people seeking refuge in the UK, despite Public Health England warnings that they weren't suitable during the pandemic, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration found.

Crowded conditions and poor hygiene resulted in a coronavirus outbreak at Napier in January and February when more than 200 asylum seekers tested positive.

Residents previously told Sky News they were "treated like criminals" there.

A report by the ICIBI and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons found that the asylum seekers were unable to protect themselves from COVID-19 due to a lack of social distancing and filthy facilities.

People were unable to find out how long they would be there, which had a negative impact on their mental health, inspectors added.

There was also a fire at the facility in January, but no injuries were reported.

Penally Camp was closed last month, but with Napier still operating, MPs are calling for it to be shut down.

Twenty-one members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Immigration and Detention have written to Priti Patel expressing "serious concern" and fears residents are at "very serious risk of harm".

The letter reads: "We do not believe such sites provide the safe, stable accommodation that people seeking asylum - man, trafficking and other serious trauma - need in order to recover and rebuild their lives."

Ms Patel and immigration minister Chris Philp have previously defended the use of the sites, drawing major criticism from MPs on both sides.