AVID: 60+ organisations join our call to close the barracks and engage with civil society

8 December 2020: AVID: Today, we sent a letter to the Immigration Minister and Shadow Home Secretary highlighting the risks of housing vulnerable asylum-seekers in crowded barracks where social distancing is impossible, and urging them to implement community-based alternatives, to avoid further harm. Our letters were co-signed by more than 60 community organisations working with people in detention or seeking asylum.

Read the letter to the Immigration Minister Chris Philp MP

‘Given the significant backlog in processing asylum applications, made worse during the current pandemic, it is time to consider alternatives. The government has talked about a reset moment for migration. Now is the time, but this can only be done by involving and engaging with civil society and people with experience of the system.’

Read the letter to the Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds MP

We believe that it’s unacceptable to keep people in barracks; the accommodation is not suitable for vulnerable people and over the last few days there have been suicide attempts, hunger strikes and protests about conditions at the Napier Barracks. It is impossible to socially distance when there are as many as 28 people sharing two toilets and up to 14 people sleeping in a room. 

The unsuitability of the accommodation is worse for the people being housed in the barracks who are victims of torture at the hands of soldiers or militia. For them, and all those fleeing wars, being kept in a military facility surrounded by barbed wire is proving difficult for their mental health. They are being retraumatised by their surroundings.

We have seen the damage done by forcing people to undergo the excruciating and drawn out uncertainty of immigration detention. It is now widely acknowledged and understood that this has a profoundly detrimental impact on people’s mental health. While the barracks are not detention, the consequences for individuals are the same: being isolated and cut off from support networks, without access to legal advice and other specialist help, while being held in wholly inappropriate conditions for an unknown length of time.

In contrast, there is growing evidence that managing people’s cases while they remain in the community with access to support is both less expensive and more effective. 

We call on the minister firstly to release everyone from the barracks immediately into safe, supported, community-based alternatives. Then, to engage with civil society and with people experiencing the system to find better solutions.

Ali McGinley, Director of the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees said,

“There is no shortage of evidence that the UK’s system of immigration detention does very little other than cause long lasting damage……choosing to ignore this by replicating the worst injustices of this system in the barracks accommodation is irresponsible, dangerous and puts many more people at risk. We urge the government to use this opportunity to think again about this reactive and risky approach, and to engage with people within the system, and the communities supporting them, to find a safe and supported alternative.”


Guardian: End housing of asylum seekers in old army barracks, UK ministers urged

Exclusive: dozens of organisations make plea after damning reports on conditions at former military sites … Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/dec/08/end-housing-asylum-seekers-old-army-barracks-uk-ministers-urged

For Twitter: Today we wrote to the Immigration Minister along with 60+ community orgs asking the govt to :1) Close the ex-military barracks it is using to ‘house’ vulnerable asylum seekers2) Engage with civil society to develop community-based alternatives https://tinyurl.com/y5o3nyn9

Using ex-military barracks to ‘house’ ppl seeking asylum repeats the worst injustices of immigration detention. We joined @AVIDdetention to write to @ChrisPhilpMP to ask him to engage with civil society & start managing people’s cases while they are supported in the community.

See also: 6 December 2020: ‘Inhuman’ Conditions For Asylum Seekers In Former Barracks
Hundreds of asylum seekers are being unlawfully held in “inhuman” conditions at former military camps, according to legal claims filed against the Home Office. Legal challenges have been mounted over two ex-army sites – Penally barracks in Pembrokeshire and Napier barracks in Kent – that were repurposed in September to hold asylum seekers. Lawyers argue that the conditions in the camps are unlawful because they breach the government guidelines on Covid-19 precautions, as well as placing residents at risk of suffering from “degrading” treatment due to unhygienic conditions and a lack of access to medical care.
The Home Office has already faced a number of individual challenges from asylum seekers arguing that they should be moved from the sites because of the poor conditions – at least 10 of which the department conceded before the case went to court, resulting in the claimants being moved out. The Independent is aware of a number of wider legal challenges now being prepared in a bid to close down the makeshift asylum facilities, as concern mounts over the welfare of residents.
Read more: May Bulman, Indpendent, https://is.gd/SWR3E9

You could write to your MP suggesting they support the campaign for all undocumented migrants and those in the legal process be given Indefinite Leave to Remain, as called for under EDM #658 and by the Status Now 4 All campaign: htttp://statusnow4all.org