Updated 7 April 2022: APPG: Napier Barracks visit – report published
MPs from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Immigration Detention have today published their report from a visit in February to Napier Barracks – a former military base near Folkestone where people seeking asylum are being placed by the government in detention-like conditions.
** Access the full visit report here **
An inquiry undertaken last year by the APPG found that being accommodated at Napier left many people seeking asylum feeling dehumanised and suffering a profound deterioration in their mental health, in some cases to the point of attempting suicide.
The MPs visiting in February found that little had changed at the site and said they remain “deeply concerned” for the individuals accommodated there, calling for Napier to be closed with “immediate and permanent effect”.
A ruling by the High Court in June 2021 found that Napier Barracks did not meet minimum standards for asylum accommodation. The parliamentarians’ report warns that changes introduced by the Home Office after the ruling have failed to address the fundamental problems at the site, with serious concerns continuing in relation to:
- inadequate safeguarding of vulnerable people, such as victims of torture and trafficking, with little being done to identify residents who are in need of support
- the physical environment of the site, which was run-down, isolated and bleak, with many buildings in an extremely poor state of repair
- a near total lack of privacy and private spaces at the site, with residents continuing to be accommodated in dormitories of up to 12-14 people and having to share showers, toilets, and other facilities
- noise levels in the dormitories, and the sleep deprivation and the negative impact on residents’ mental health resulting from this
- inadequate access for residents to healthcare and legal advice, and the difficulties they face in engaging with their asylum claim at the site
- the site’s prison-like nature and military features, including security checks upon entering and the presence of security guards patrolling
- the lack of autonomy, choice and control over their daily lives that residents experience at the site.
The report explains that, having seen and experienced the sites for themselves, the MPs are firmly of the view that Napier and other sites like it are fundamentally unsuitable for use as asylum accommodation, and do not allow a person to engage effectively with their asylum claim.
The MPs also confirm in the report their support for the recommendations contained in the 2021 APPG Inquiry Report, including a call to close Napier with immediate and permanent effect, and to ensure that people seeking asylum are housed in decent, safe accommodation in the community that supports their well-being and recovery from trauma, facilitates their engagement with the asylum process, and allows them to build links with their community.
The MPs that took part in the visit were: Alison Thewliss MP (SNP) – APPG Chair; Stuart C. McDonald MP (SNP); Anne McLaughlin MP (SNP); Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP (Labour). The visit took place on 2 February 2022.
Updated 9 December 2021: APPG: Inquiry into quasi-detention – full report
Cross-party call by parliamentarians to end dehumanising quasi-detention of people seeking asylum
1) In relation to current or former quasi-detention sites, the government must ensure:
a) Napier Barracks is closed as asylum accommodation with immediate and permanent effect, and that people seeking asylum accommodated at Napier are moved directly to decent, safe housing in the community that allows them to live with dignity
b) Penally Camp remains closed as asylum accommodation and is not used for that purpose at any point in the future
c) Tinsley House IRC remains closed as asylum accommodation and neither it nor any other IRC is used for that purpose at any point in the future
d) No other sites of a military nature or adjacent to IRCs, including those at Barton Stacey and Yarl’s Wood, are opened as asylum accommodation
2) In relation to asylum system more widely, the government must ensure:
a) People seeking asylum are housed in decent, safe accommodation in the community that supports their well-being and recovery from trauma, facilitates their engagement with the asylum process, and allows them to build links with their community
b) Key elements of the asylum process, including the substantive interview, are conducted promptly and in an environment that allows disclosure of sensitive information and access to legal and other necessary support
3) The APPG Inquiry Panel is strongly opposed to the introduction of ‘accommodation centres’ to house people seeking asylum, as proposed in the Nationality and Borders Bill.
In the event that accommodation centres are introduced, however, the government must
a) None of the shortcomings identified in this report are replicated at the new centre(s)
b) No centre is opened without the consent of the local authority and meaningful consultation with all relevant stakeholders
c) Effective safeguards are in place such that no vulnerable people are accommodated at the centre(s)
d) Residents are assured a safe environment that meets a minimum standard of decency,
488 including protection from harassment and abuse
e) Residents are assured unimpeded access to healthcare, including mental healthcare
f) Residents are assured unimpeded access to legal advice and support, and access to an effective appeals process to challenge their placement in the centre
g) Residents are accommodated at the centre(s) for the minimum possible time
h) Robust and effective mechanisms are in place to monitor the performance of any private contractors
i) An independent statutory inspection regime is in place
In the wake of the Channel crossing tragedy, where 27 people lost their lives trying to reach the UK, a cross-party group of parliamentarians has today published a report calling on the government to end its use of Napier Barracks in Kent to accommodate people seeking asylum. The report also recommends the scrapping of government plans for more large-scale accommodation based on Napier as a pilot.
The quasi-detention sites examined in the report replicate many of the features found in detained settings – including visible security measures, surveillance, shared living quarters, lack of privacy, poor access to healthcare, legal advice and means of communication, and isolation from the wider community.
The report is the result of an inquiry by the APPG on Immigration Detention into the use of the sites. Led by a panel of 10 parliamentarians from both government and opposition parties, the APPG Inquiry gathered written and oral evidence from over 30 participants – including people accommodated at the sites and charities working directly with them, medical and legal experts, and on-site contractors.
The report explains how features of the sites – including their prison-like conditions – make them “fundamentally unsuitable” as asylum accommodation. For survivors of torture, trafficking or other serious forms of violence – as many asylum-seekers are – such conditions can cause them to relive past abuses and be highly re-traumatising.
The report also documents serious operational failings by the Home Office and its contractors in their running of the sites. It details how people accommodated at the sites have been subjected to “appalling treatment and conditions” which has left them feeling “dehumanised, exhausted and suffering a profound deterioration in their mental health, in some cases to the point of attempting suicide”.
In August this year, the government extended its use of Napier Barracks until 2025 without consultation. The High Court has now granted permission for a judicial review challenging this decision. The government has also confirmed that Napier may act as a pilot for the new asylum accommodation centres proposed in the Nationality and Borders Bill currently making its way through Parliament.
In its report, the APPG Inquiry Panel makes clear its opposition to these centres. It urges the government instead to ensure that people seeking asylum are housed in decent, safe accommodation in the community that supports their well-being and recovery from trauma, facilitates their engagement with the asylum process, and allows them to build links with their community.
In March this year, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration & Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) found two of the sites, Napier Barracks and Penally Camp, to be “impoverished, run-down and unsuitable for long-term accommodation”. Similarly, in a high-profile case the High Court ruled in June that Napier Barracks failed to meet minimum standards of accommodation for asylum seekers, and that for a period residents were unlawfully detained there under purported Covid rules.
Evidence submitted to the APPG Inquiry demonstrated that few improvements had been made by the Home Office since these serious concerns were raised.
Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central and Chair of the APPG on Immigration Detention, commented:
“The report makes for sober reading. It has highlighted the myriad ways in which the Home Office is comprehensively failing some of the most vulnerable people in society. Those forced to stay in quasi-detention accommodation have included children, people who have survived torture or trafficking, and other at-risk groups. Our worst fears have been confirmed that this type of accommodation is not only inappropriate, but downright harmful.
“The Home Office have presided over a litany of failures- not only are the sites themselves unsuitable, but their running and mismanagement of Napier Barracks and other large scale accommodation units has actively contributed to poor mental and physical health outcomes for residents, with barely existent safeguarding.
“The accounts of witnesses were heart-breaking and painted a picture of misery and a disregard for medical and legal rights. It is even more worrying that the Home Office themselves described this situation as a ‘pilot project’, suggesting this is the beginning of a new approach. Plans for ‘offshoring’ in the Nationalities and Borders Bill being debated this week certainly imply that there is worse to come, and we should not stand for it.
“The Home Office must listen to experts and survivors of this disastrous scheme and put a stop to quasi-detention once and for all.”
- For media enquiries, please contact Elspeth Macdonald on firstname.lastname@example.org / 07784 034660.
- Former residents at Napier and Penally have kindly offered to be interviewed. Please contact Elspeth Macdonald (contact details above) if this is of interest.
- The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Immigration Detention comprises over 40 parliamentarians from across all main political parties who share concerns about the use of immigration detention in the UK. More information about the group, including its full membership list, is available at detention.org.uk.
- More information about the inquiry, including links to the written and oral evidence collected, are available at https://appgdetention.org.uk/inquiry-into-quasi-detention/.
- The inquiry panel members were:
- Alison Thewliss MP (SNP) – APPG chair
- Paul Blomfield MP (Labour)
- Wendy Chamberlain MP (Liberal Democrat)
- Mary Foy MP (Labour)
- Richard Fuller MP (Conservative)
- Helen Hayes MP (Labour)
- Anne McLaughlin MP (SNP)
- Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP (Labour)
- Lord Roberts of Llandudno (Liberal Democrat)
- Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Labour)
Updated November 2021: QARN made a submission to this inquiry which you will find here: https://appgdetention.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/QARN-APPG-quasi-detention-inquiry-submission-25-June-2021.pdf?x39181
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Immigration Detention Inquiry into quasi-detention: https://appgdetention.org.uk/inquiry-into-quasi-detention/
Interim report – summary of oral evidence sessions is here: https://appgdetention.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/210907-APPG-Inquiry-Interim-report-Summary-of-oral-evidence-sessions.pdf?x87756
Information about the oral submissions is here: https://appgdetention.org.uk/inquiry-into-quasi-detention-oral-evidence-sessions/
and written submissions can be accessed here: https://appgdetention.org.uk/inquiry-into-quasi-detention-written-evidence/
In early September 2021, the APPG submitted a series of questions to Clearsprings Ready Homes and Migrant Help (contracted by the Home Office to provide services at Napier Barracks and Penally Camp). The group received the following information from them in late September 2021: Read more here: https://appgdetention.org.uk/inquiry-into-quasi-detention-written-evidence/
All Party Parliamentary Group on Immigration Detention is calling for submissions by 25 June 2021. Details here: https://appgdetention.org.uk/inquiry-into-quasi-detention-evidence/ and below:
Background: The APPG on Immigration Detention is conducting an inquiry into the UK Government’s use of large-scale institutional sites, such as former military barracks and a temporarily ‘de-designated’ Immigration Removal Centre (IRC), as asylum accommodation.
Such sites replicate many of the features found in detained settings, including isolation from the wider community, visible security measures, and reduced levels of privacy and control/agency for residents. The inquiry therefore refers to them as sites of ‘quasi-detention’.
The inquiry will seek to understand concerns about the suitability of these types of sites for accommodating people seeking asylum, bearing in mind the potential histories of torture, trafficking and/or other forms of serious trauma, and the ongoing health and legal needs of such individuals. It will gather written and oral evidence on the topic, and issue a report with key findings and recommendations.
The UK Government recently published plans to introduce ‘asylum reception centres’, stating that the centres will provide people seeking asylum with ‘basic’ accommodation whilst also assessing their claims. The APPG hopes that the findings and recommendations from its inquiry can be used to inform the debate on this future proposal, whilst also assessing the situation as it currently stands.
Written evidence – scope
The APPG invites individuals and organisations with relevant information to submit written evidence to the inquiry.
Written evidence submissions should focus on the use of former military facilities (Penally Camp, Napier Barracks and RAF Coltishall); ‘de-designated’ IRCs (Tinsley House IRC) and any additional proposed similar sites (site adjacent to Yarl’s Wood IRC; site at Barton Stacey). For reasons of scope, the use of hotels and other forms of accommodation will not be covered by the inquiry.
Submissions should answer the questions below. You do not need to answer all questions in your submission – just those about which you or your organisation have relevant information.
- Who has been / is being accommodated at the site(s) and for how long?
- What are the key features of the site(s) that generate concern, and how do these features impact on residents, with regard in particular to their:
- Physical health?
- Mental health?
- Ability to access legal advice, to challenge their placement in such accommodation, and to exercise their right to claim asylum?
- Ability to access specialist support e.g. for victims of trafficking, age disputed minors, etc?
- What mechanisms, if any, exist at the site(s) to identify and safeguard vulnerable people, and are these mechanisms adequate?
- What changes, if any, have been observed in the way that the asylum/immigration claims of residents at the site(s) are being processed, and what implications might these changes have?
- What questions arise with regard to the lawfulness of the site(s)?
- What effect do the site(s) and any changes in processing observed at them have on the known backlog of pending asylum claims and the number of people seeking asylum left ‘in limbo’?
- What recommendations (both short-term and long-term) do you have for the government regarding the site(s) and others like them?
- Any other issues generating concern not covered by the above?
The APPG welcomes submissions from a range of stakeholders, including but not limited to: current/former residents of the sites; other experts-by-experience; statutory monitoring bodies; local authorities; health providers; non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and law firms.
The deadline for submitting written evidence is 5pm on Friday 25 June 2021.
Your written evidence submission should be no longer than 3,000 words maximum. It should be sent as a Word document by email to email@example.com
The APPG plans to publish all submissions received on its website, including the name of the individual / organisation that has written it.
If you would prefer for your submission to be anonymous (i.e. published on the website, but without the name of the individual / organisation) or to remain confidential (i.e. read by the APPG but not published on the website), please specify this in your document.
If you any questions about the APPG and/or its inquiry, please email Elspeth Macdonald at firstname.lastname@example.org
The APPG recognises the time and resources involved in writing submissions. We thank all participants in advance for their contributions.