Inside the ‘squalid and filthy’ British Army barracks where asylum seekers were detained illegally

·Freelance Writer
·4-min read

Watch: Asylum seekers win High Court challenge over 'squalid' Napier Barracks

These are the pictures that show the “squalid and filthy” accommodation in Kent where asylum seekers and victims of torture were housed illegally.

The pictures show the inside of Napier Barracks where men, all said to be “survivors of torture or human trafficking”, were forced to live.

On Thursday morning, six asylum seekers formerly housed at the former army barracks won a legal challenge against the government after a High Court judge found their accommodation failed to meet a minimum standard.

Napier Barracks have been used to house hundreds of asylum seekers since last September, despite the Home Office being warned by Public Health England (PHE) that it was unsuitable.

The former Army barracks in Kent have been used to house hundreds of asylum seekers since last September. (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration)
The former Army barracks in Kent have been used to house hundreds of asylum seekers since last September. (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration)
Napier Barracks have been used to house hundreds of asylum seekers since last September. (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration)
Napier Barracks have been used to house hundreds of asylum seekers since last September. (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration)

The men argued that the Home Office unlawfully accommodated people at the barracks and conditions there posed “real and immediate risks to life and of ill-treatment”.

During a two-day hearing in April, the men’s lawyers said accommodating asylum seekers at the “squalid” barracks was a breach of their human rights and could amount to false imprisonment.

On Thursday, Mr Justice Linden ruled in favour of the men and found that the Home Office acted unlawfully when deciding the former military camp was appropriate.

He said: “Whether on the basis of the issues of COVID or fire safety taken in isolation, or looking at the cumulative effect of the decision-making about, and the conditions in, the barracks, I do not accept that the accommodation there ensured a standard of living which was adequate for the health of the claimants.

“Insofar as the defendant considered that the accommodation was adequate for their needs, that view was irrational.”

The asylum seekers' lawyers said accommodating asylum seekers at the “squalid” barracks was a breach of their human rights. (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration)
The asylum seekers' lawyers said accommodating asylum seekers at the “squalid” barracks was a breach of their human rights. (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration)
The men argued conditions at Napier Barracks posed 'real and immediate risks to life and of ill-treatment'. (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration)
The men argued conditions at Napier Barracks posed 'real and immediate risks to life and of ill-treatment'. (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration)

The men’s lawyers had argued that moving them to the former Ministry of Defence camp “exposed them to an exceptionally high risk” of contracting COVID.

Almost 200 people tested positive for coronavirus during an outbreak at the barracks earlier this year, senior Home Office officials told MPs in February.

A report published in March said that there were “fundamental failures” over housing asylum seekers in military barracks, parts of which were “filthy”.

Residents at Napier and Penally Camp in Wales reported being shouted at and intimidated by protesters and members of the public who did not want them there.

Police intervene and remove a man during a demonstration outside Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, where pro-migrant supporters have gathered to welcome migrants to the area. The barracks has been converted to house around 400 asylum seekers, many of whom have crossed the Channel by boat.
Police intervene and remove a man during an earlier demonstration outside Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent.
Activists take radical action throwing buckets of fake blood at Napier Barracks to highlight human rights violations on the 28th of January 2021 in Folkestone, United Kingdom. Activists dressed in white suits and masks, threw the fake blood through the gates of Napier Barracks to send a clear message to Priti Patel and the Home office to close Napier camp or there will be blood on your hands Following ongoing concerns over the poor living conditions at Napier barracks, and the failures in handling the inevitable Covid-19 outbreak onsite, pressure has been mounting on the Home Office to close the camp. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In pictures via Getty Images)
Activists took action throwing buckets of fake blood at Napier Barracks to highlight perceived human rights violations. (Getty)
Asylum seekers currently held inside Napier Barracks staged a peaceful protest outside the entrance to the barracks with banners and signs to demonstrate about the poor conditions they are subjected to inside the holding centre on the 12th of January 2021 in Folkestone, United Kingdom. Over 400 asylum seekers are being kept at Napier Barracks in unsuitable, cold accommodation, they are experiencing mental health issues as well as being vulnerable to health conditions including COVID-19.  (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In pictures via Getty Images)
Asylum seekers currently held inside Napier Barracks staged a peaceful protest outside the entrance to the barracks in Janiary with banners and signs to demonstrate about the poor conditions. (Getty)

Inspections by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) published their findings following their inspections.

Inspectors said: “We met many men who described feeling depressed and hopeless at their circumstances. In our resident survey, all of those who responded at Napier and the vast majority at Penally said they had felt depressed at some points.

“At both sites about a third of respondents said they had mental health problems; about a third of respondents at Napier said they had felt suicidal.”

Following today’s ruling, campaigners including Liberty and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants have called for Napier Barracks to be shut down.

Napier Barracks was described as 'squalid and filthy'. (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration)
Napier Barracks was described as 'squalid and filthy'. (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration)
Almost 200 people tested positive for coronavirus during an outbreak at the barracks earlier this year. (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration)
Almost 200 people tested positive for coronavirus during an outbreak at the barracks earlier this year. (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration)

However, the judge declined to rule that the barracks could never be used to house asylum seekers and said his findings were based on the conditions the six men faced.

Responding to the ruling, a Home Office spokesman said that “additional accommodation was required at extremely short notice” at the height of the pandemic.

He added: “Throughout this period our accommodation providers and subcontractors have made improvements to the site and continue to do so.

“It is disappointing that this judgement was reached on the basis of the site prior to the significant improvement works which have taken place in difficult circumstances.”

The spokesman said the Home Office is not considering its next steps.

Watch: MP's reaction as government admits extent of COVID outbreak at Napier Barracks

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