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Thousands call for asylum seeker camps at military barracks to be shut down

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

Thousands of people are calling for controversial military barracks where asylum seekers are being housed to be shut down.

A petition to close camps in Kent and Wales has racked up more than 8,500 signatures in just a few hours after being launched on Friday morning.

Charities have repeatedly raised concerns about conditions inside Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, and Penally Barracks in Pembrokeshire since they were commandeered by the Home Office last year.

In recent days, a coronavirus outbreak has hit the Kent site, where hundreds of people are living behind the barbed wire-topped fences.

Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent
There has been a coronavirus outbreak at Napier Barracks (Gareth Fuller/PA)

There have been reports of suicide attempts in the Army barracks and many residents went on hunger strike in protest at the conditions, which reportedly include 34 people sharing one shower.

A petition launched by charity Freedom from Torture to empty the barracks and close them down on Friday morning has already racked up thousands of signatures.

By around 11.30am, more than 8,500 signatures had been gathered, just hours after the petition went live.

Kolbassia Haoussou, lead survivor advocate at Freedom from Torture, said: “The Government’s plans to extend the use of barracks to accommodate asylum seekers in the middle of a pandemic is horrifying. I fled torture and came to the UK as a refugee.

“As I have rebuilt my life here, I am proud of Britain’s tradition and duty of offering safety to those fleeing persecution. But I never thought I would see the day where a British Government effectively sets up detention camps for the most vulnerable in our society.

“A major crisis is unfolding in these unsanitary and dangerous places. Many of the people trapped here have low immune systems and mental health issues linked to the abuse they have fled.

“The attempted suicides and life-threatening outbreaks of Covid-19 tell a tragic story. The Government has the power to end this nightmare now. Empty the barracks, close the camps, save lives.”

The Home Office insists that accommodation at Napier Barracks is “safe, suitable, (and) Covid-compliant”.

Immigration minister Chris Philp said: “We take the welfare of those in our care extremely seriously and asylum seekers can contact the 24/7 helpline run by Migrant Help if they have any issues.”

The petition can be accessed here: https://action.freedomfromtorture.org/close-the-barracks-1