The Napier Barracks condition in the UK is becoming worse. Since September 2020, the former army barracks have been housing migrants; most migrants could cross the Channel from France. The migrant residents, NGOs, and politicians are all criticizing government policy of housing asylum seekers there.
Frustration is rising inside Napier Barracks, and the voices criticizing the barracks in Kent have been getting louder. Last week, a fire broke out in the facility, which was being used to house up to 400 migrants and asylum seekers.
Since then, various politicians on both sides of the political divide have added their voices to residents, NGOs, and humanitarian organizations, who have long been saying that conditions inside the barracks are inhumane and not fit to house anyone. Some residents and former residents told The Guardian newspaper on February 2 that they felt they were being treated like animals.
They call on the UK government to look into conditions and move the asylum seekers still living at the barracks as soon as possible. Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) has been posting some of the letters on their Twitter feed.
Policy Has Failed
The Conservative former immigration minister Caroline Noakes accused the Home Office of using the barracks to make Britain appear to asylum seekers as difficult and inhospitable as possible, according to another The Guardian article on February 2.
Noakes said the policy of keeping migrants in barracks had failed. Noakes was an immigration minister in Theresa May’s government between January 2018 and July 2019, when Boris Johnson took over.
Noakes, reported the Guardian, adding that she was “surprised that the Home Office was moving forward with barracks plans while a handful of legal actions were underway to challenge their use.” Two legal actions are currently pending against Napier Barracks, with three others connected to two other former army facilities in the UK.
The legal actions, according to the Guardian, “focus on the lawfulness or otherwise of providing such accommodation for asylum seekers,” and look at whether that kind of accommodation could breach their human rights and be seen as a form of “false imprisonment, deprivation of liberty and failure to conduct vulnerability assessments.”
Concern Over the Conditions Inside
In December 2020, numerous humanitarian organizations, including Doctors of the World and Freedom from Torture, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK, wrote to the British government to express their concerns over conditions within the barracks.
Now the residents of the barracks have to voice out their concerns and opinions. On January 21, before the fire erupted, an asylum seeker at Napier wrote a letter to the British public posted on Instagram under the page of charity Choose Love.
The resident said, “more mentally and physically ill due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Napier Barracks.” The letter came after a couple of people in the barracks tested positive for COVID-19.
Around 120 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed. There were six cases confirmed in one block on January 14, says the resident, “the camp managers decided to open the fences around the block and let the infected ones mix with everyone.”