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Asylum seekers ‘moved out of barracks at 15-minutes notice’

Michael Drummond, PA
·3-min read

Asylum seekers being moved out of a virus-hit army barracks were given “only 15 minutes” notice and not told where they were going, it is claimed.

Dozens of people were moved out of Napier Barracks in Kent after dark over the weekend, the PA news agency has been told.

One asylum seeker who has been living at the barracks said: “They have no idea where they are going or what could happen next.”

The Home Office denied suggestions that asylum seekers were given just a quarter of an hour’s notice and said residents were “kept fully informed” throughout the process.

The military site has been used to house about 400 asylum seekers since September last year, despite concerns over conditions.

Napier Barracks
Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Fears for their welfare have escalated after 120 people are believed to have tested positive for coronavirus.

On Tuesday Home Secretary Priti Patel insisted the accommodation was of a “very strong” standard and “in line with PHE guidance”.

Watch: Quarter of residents in UK refugee complex catch COVID-10

The asylum seeker, who is from the Middle East, told PA that “around 59 people” were transferred out of the barracks over the weekend.

He believes they were taken to a hotel in nearby Hythe for ten days but what would happen after that was unclear.

“They don’t know what’s next”, he said.

Poltics Migrants
A man seeking asylum in the UK shows his negative NHS Covid-19 test result through the fence at Napier Barracks (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The man also described a precarious situation for those left at the barracks, where the virus has been spreading.

“People who are living here, many of them are still negative, but they (are) sleeping in the same room as positive people.

“We have no idea who’s positive, who’s negative.

“All I know (is) the room next to me is positive and I just found out last night, so maybe I’m carrying it already now.”

He said he believes seven people in his dormitory have contracted coronavirus, adding that rooms are separated by “only a piece of sheet”.

Poltics Migrants
Napier Barracks is being used to house people seeking asylum in the UK (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“I went to the office every day, I’m going there for one or two hours asking for a response, but they don’t give any response.

“They say just wait, we will find solution.”

The Home Office, which took over the site last year, insists the accommodation in Kent is “safe, suitable, (and) Covid-compliant”.

At the weekend the department said that a number of asylum seekers were being moved from Napier Barracks “temporarily” into self-isolation facilities.

This was “in order to allow others at Napier to self-isolate more easily”, a spokesman said.

They added on Tuesday evening: “Asylum seekers are being kept fully informed throughout the process, including on where they are being moved to.”

Ms Patel said on Tuesday: “The reason why we have removed a number of asylum seekers over the weekend is actually to protect others from catching coronavirus, that is absolutely the right thing to do.”

A petition to shut down Napier Barracks, along with a similar facility at a barracks in Wales, has amassed more than 15,000 signatures.

Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?