More ‘Contingency Units’ and proposals for housing people seeking asylum

This post is being updated with reports of atrocities around the army camp accommodation, and other Home Office plans to accommodate people in new sites:


Updated 31 January 2021: Independent: Home Office put refugees in barracks after fears better housing would ‘undermine confidence’ in system

Exclusive: Internal documents reveal ministers justified placing hundreds of asylum seekers in military camps because more ‘generous’ accommodation would damage public perception of asylum system

The Home Office placed hundreds of asylum seekers in controversial military barracks following fears that better accommodation would “undermine confidence” in the system, internal documents reveal.

Concerns have been mounting about conditions in two Ministry of Defence (MoD) sites – known as Napier Barracks, in Folkestone, Kent, and Penally Barracks, in Pembrokeshire – since they were were repurposed for housing asylum seekers last September. Campaigners, lawyers and humanitarian groups have reported poor access to healthcare and legal advice, as well as concerns over coronavirus safety.

The barracks burst into flames on Friday and asylum seekers say they have suffered electricity and hot water outages since the fire, with Kent Police saying five men have been arrested after a disturbance at the camp.

It has now emerged that the Home Office, in its equality impact assessment of the plans to use MoD sites to house asylum seekers, justified the move by stating that housing these individuals in more “generous” accommodation would “undermine public confidence in the asylum system”.ADVERTISING

Critics say the document shows ministers “pandering to prejudice” and jeopardising health for “political ends”.

Read more: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/asylum-seekers-napier-barracks-home-office-b1793951.html


26 January 2021: Independent: Home Office urged to publish review into ‘desperate’ asylum camps amid concerns about Covid outbreak

Ministers come under pressure as hundreds remain in camp where coronavirus outbreak has taken hold, with one asylum seeker saying he is sleeping outdoors to protect himself

Read more: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/asylum-camps-home-office-covid-b1792422.html


Updated 23 January 2021: Guardian: UK asylum seekers told claims at risk if they ‘misbehave’

Call for Home Office to act after private contractors tell people their applications will be jeopardised for speaking out, going on hunger strikes or complaining about food

People held at temporary Home Office refugee camps are being threatened that their asylum claims will be harmed if they “misbehave”, according to testimony from site residents.

A series of statements from asylum seekers inside the camps, anonymised to protect them from possible reprisals, allege they have been told by staff employed by private contractors that their asylum application will be jeopardised for speaking out about conditions or going on hunger strike.

One alleged he was told that if he complained about the food his name would be added to a “blacklist” that contractors shared with the Home Office and would “affect his claim”.

Others said they were told their asylum claim would be impaired if they did not return to their accommodation – a disused military training camp – by 10pm.

Asylum is a human right backed by the UN Refugee Convention and assessed in the UK using agreed screening processes and Home Office immigration caseworkers.

Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/jan/23/uk-asylum-seekers-told-claims-at-risk-if-they-misbehave


Updated 18 January 2021: How will people in the asylum system, and those who are undocumented, access track and trace, testing, or the vaccine?

Guardian: Kent refugee site locked down after scores test positive for Covid

Police officers enforce move at Napier barracks after warnings from humanitarian organisations. [Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/19/kent-refugee-napier-barracks-locked-down-covid]


16 January 2021: Guardian: Legal action launched against plan to house asylum seekers at Yarl’s Wood

Home Office criticised for plans to accommodate 200 people seeking asylum at ‘prison-style’ camp.

Pressure is mounting on the Home Office over its plans to house nearly 200 asylum seekers in what campaigners have described as a “prison-style” camp on the site of an immigration jail.

The construction of prefab-style accommodation at the privately run Yarl’s Wood centre in Bedfordshire follow a series of damning reports on conditions at two former army barracks sites in Kent and Pembrokeshire being used to hold up to 600 asylum-seeking men.

Campaigners have started legal action against the expansion of Yarl’s Wood, which is set to house its first asylum seekers imminently, while councillors in Bedford have spoken out against the new development.

The Home Office has invoked emergency powers under town and country planning legislation to speedily construct the cabin-style accommodation without seeking planning permission through conventional channels. Images of the new site have been leaked to the Guardian. Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/jan/16/legal-action-launched-against-plan-to-house-asylum-seekers-at-yarls-wood


15 January 2021: BBC: Napier arracks: MP wants asylum seeker accommodation shut

An MP has called for an emergency asylum seeker accommodation centre in his constituency to be shut.

The first of several hundred people seeking asylum arrived at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, in September.

People being housed there recently staged protests at “unbearable” conditions at the ex-military base.

Now local MP Damian Collins has called for its closure. The Home Office has been approached for comment.

Mr Collins said he had raised concerns about the suitability of using the barracks to accommodate so many people at the start of the process.

“The best solution would be for the asylum seekers to have their claims processed and for this facility to be closed down,” he said.

In protest, residents have staged a sleep out and hunger strikes, and police were called on Tuesday when about 100 people walked out for about an hour.

The campaign group Care4Calais says three people are still refusing to sleep inside.

The group’s founder Clare Moseley said: “The asylum seekers at Napier already face cramped, stressful, distressing conditions, and now they are terrified of catching Covid as well.”


14 January 2021 BBC: Covid: Asylum seeker camp conditions prompt inspection calls

Asylum seekers housed in a military training camp have claimed the “very bad” conditions are making them feel increasingly desperate.

The Home Office decided to house up to 250 asylum seekers at the site in Penally, Pembrokeshire, from September.

But some housed at the camp claim the conditions are unsafe and putting them at risk of coronavirus.

Plaid Cymru has called for an urgent inspection, but the Home Office said it was safe and “Covid-compliant”.

On Thursday afternoon, the independent chief inspector for borders and immigration David Bolt said he hoped an inspection can begin “within a few weeks” and was awaiting further details he requested from the Home Office.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-55650508


14 January 2021: Guardian: Asylum seeker housing conditions under scrutiny at third ex-military site

Allegations of poor conditions, poor food quality and mental health crises at RAF Coltishall in Norfolk.

A third former military site being used as temporary housing for asylum seekers is facing allegations of poor conditions, poor food quality and mental health crises, it has emerged.

The Home Office has been housing asylum seekers in a former officers’ mess at RAF Coltishall, north of Norwich, since April last year. The Norfolk site has not received as much scrutiny as two similar facilities, Napier Barracks in Kent and Penally Barracks in Pembrokeshire, which have been dogged by allegations of cover-upspoor access to healthcare and legal advice, and crowded conditions.

But it has emerged that there have been similar concerns over the set-up at RAF Coltishall, with people familiar with the site claiming there have been issues with lack of information, food quality, access to medical care including dentistry, as well as suicide attempts and hunger strikes. Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/jan/14/asylum-seeker-housing-conditions-under-scrutiny-third-uk-military-site-raf-coltishall-norfolk-


14 January 2021 Morning Star: Asylum-seekers march into Tenby demanding their human rights

ASYLUM-SEEKERS at an army barracks in Wales marched into the local town on Wednesday night with banners reading: “Close the camp” and “We want normal life, no prison.”

Around 250 men have been held in Penally Camp since September, when the Home Office decided to use the disused army base as temporary accommodation for asylum-seekers.

Residents claim conditions at the site are not safe, and have repeatedly raised concerns about a lack of access to medical care and legal support.

Today a group of 40 men from the camp took to the streets to voice their frustration and demand it be shut down.

Walking from the camp to the nearby town of Tenby, protesters, chanting: “We are civilians,” held pieces of carboard asking: “Where are [our] human rights?”

Read more: https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/b/asylum-seekers-in-wales-march-out-of-army-barracks-demanding-an-end-to-their-imprisonment


14 January 2021: Northern Echo: Plans revealed to build prison-style immigration camp on site of former Hassockfield Detention Centre

GOVERNMENT plans to scrap a residential development in favour of creating an immigration detention centre on the site of a notorious facility have been described as “madness”.

Durham county councillors are demanding answers after Ministry of Justice plans emerged, proposing to turn the former Hassockfield Detention Centre, in Medomsley, into a Category 3-style prison to detain around 80 people who have had applications for UK residency denied.

The council had approved a planning application from Homes England for 127 new homes on the site, over a year ago. [Read more here: https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/19009076.plans-immigration-detention-centre-notorious-medomsley-site/ ]


8 December 2020: Barton Stacey asylum seeker cabin site ‘would be open prison’

Plans to accommodate up to 500 asylum seekers in cabins near a village have been condemned by both the local MP and council leader.

Test Valley Borough Council leader Phil North said the “substandard” homes near Barton Stacey, Hampshire, would be like an “open prison”.

Fellow Conservative Caroline Nokes MP said the site would infringe rules on development.


8 December 2020: BBC Barton Stacey asylum seeker cabin site ‘would be open prison’

Barton Stacey site
image captionAsylum seekers would be housed on Ministry of Defence land near the A303, the council said

Plans to accommodate up to 500 asylum seekers in cabins near a village have been condemned by both the local MP and council leader.

Test Valley Borough Council leader Phil North said the “substandard” homes near Barton Stacey, Hampshire, would be like an “open prison”.

Fellow Conservative Caroline Nokes MP said the site would infringe rules on development.

The Home Office said any accommodation would be “of the required standard”.

Mr North said the site, on Ministry of Defence land near the A303, would mainly house asylum seekers who had come to the UK in boats.

Read more here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-55218376