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Former Kent barracks to house asylum seekers who arrived by boat

Jamie Grierson Home affairs correspondent
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA</span>
Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

People who have crossed the Channel in small boats are to be housed in former military barracks while their asylum claims are processed, it has emerged.

Around 400 people including families are to be housed in temporary accommodation at Napier barracks near Folkestone, Kent, from 21 September, the local Conservative MP Damian Collins said.

Formerly part of Shorncliffe army camp, Napier was one of five barracks at the site in 2011, alongside Burgoyne, Sir John Moore, Risborough and Somerset.

The move comes as the UK deals with record levels of arrivals across the Channel in small boats. According to analysis by PA Media, more than 6,350 people have crossed so far in 2020, with at least 168 crossing on Monday. This is more than three times the number of arrivals by small boat in the whole of 2019.

Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe, and members of the district council have written to the home secretary to object to the use of the barracks to house asylum seekers.

In their letter they said: “We have great concerns about the impact this large open camp will have on the welfare of the local residential community and also those people in the asylum system who will be placed at the barracks itself.

“We would ask that you reverse this decision and find more suitable accommodation for people who are currently having their cases processed by the asylum system.”

In a statement, Folkestone and Hythe district council cited a “lack of consultation on this matter and the exceptionally poor communication with us”.

It added: “We are quite sure that members of the community will have many questions, and we are seeking clarification as a matter of urgency.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “During these unprecedented times, the government is working with a range of partners and across departments to secure further accommodation and the MoD [Ministry of Defence] has offered use of some of its sites.

“When using contingency accommodation we work closely with organisations, including local authorities and law enforcement, throughout the process to ensure value for money and that vulnerable asylum seekers, who would otherwise be destitute, have suitable accommodation while their claims are processed.”

On Tuesday, the immigration minister, Chris Philp, said 14 people who had crossed the Channel to Britain had been deported. He tweeted they had been removed to European countries after “last minute vexatious legal claims”.