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Arson investigation into disturbance at Napier Barracks in Folkestone

An arson investigation has been launched amid the fallout of a major disturbance at Napier Barracks in Folkestone.

There were dramatic scenes yesterday as a huge emergency presence attended the military barracks in Folkestone, which are currently housing asylum seekers.

Fire services at the scene last night. Photo: LKJ(c) (44191092)
Fire services at the scene last night. Photo: LKJ(c) (44191092)

Police and fire services were called into action as videos emerged showing a huge fire in one of the buildings, and extensive damage done to the inside of at least one other.

A police spokesman confirmed that there were no injuries in the incident, but that it is believed that the fire was started deliberately.

No arrests have been made at this point and the investigation is ongoing.

Yesterday's incident came after weeks of unrest at the barracks following a number of positive covid cases among the residents.

A number of asylum seekers were taken to nearby hotels to ease the situation, but many who remained still feared that they were not covid-secure.

Police at the scene outside the barracks. Photo: Barry Goodwin (44190363)
Police at the scene outside the barracks. Photo: Barry Goodwin (44190363)

A Home Office spokeswoman stated that the disturbance started when "a number of asylum seekers who remained at Napier objected to not being moved off site".

She said: "They became aggressive, turned violent and began to set about destroying the barracks.

"Windows were smashed, an accommodation block was set on fire, and staff were intimidated.

"Kent Police and fire services attended to maintain order and put out the fire. The situation is now under control and an investigation is ongoing."

Police wearing protective riot gear were seen entering the barracks – however Detective Chief Superintendant Andrew Pritchard said that the situation never became severe enough to be treated as a riot.

Watch: KMTV report on the fires– an arson investigation has now been launched.

He said: "We are carrying out enquiries and working with partners including the Home Office and KFRS to establish the circumstances surrounding this serious incident and the identities of those who may have been involved.

"Whilst the exact nature of the disturbance and any potential links to the fire are still being investigated, it would be inaccurate to refer to the disturbance as a riot and it is not being treated as such."

Home Secretary Priti Patel described the incident as "Not only appalling, but deeply offensive to the taxpayers of this country who are providing this accommodation while asylum claims are being processed".

“This type of action will not be tolerated," she continued, "and the Home Office will support the police to take robust action against those vandalising property, threatening staff and putting lives at risk.

“This site has previously accommodated our brave soldiers and army personnel – it is an insult to say that it is not good enough for these individuals.

Flames and smoke are shooting out of the barracks (44188713)
Flames and smoke are shooting out of the barracks (44188713)

"I am fixing our broken asylum system, and will be bringing forward legislation this year to deliver on that commitment.”

However, reacting to this statement, Kolbassia Haoussou, Lead Survivor Advocate at charity Freedom from Torture, said: “Only today Freedom from Torture and other groups wrote to the Home Secretary to urge her to close the barracks immediately. Nearly 20,000 people have signed our petition to close the camps in the past few days.

"Many of the people trapped here suffer from severe mental health issues and low immune systems linked to the abuse they have fled. The camps are unsafe, unsanitary and unfit to house vulnerable people.

"The Government must close the camps now and transfer everyone to safe, Covid-secure accommodation without delay."

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone

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