Published: 11:15, 03 February 2021
| Updated: 12:06, 03 February 2021
A deputy High Court judge has ordered that an asylum seeker living at Napier Barracks must be re-housed within 24 hours.
The claimant, who is not named, arrived in the UK in August 2020 and is a potential victim of trafficking.
He was placed in the Folkestone army barracks in September 2020 and, although the Home Office agreed to transfer him to alternative accommodation on January 19 this year, they had still not done so two weeks’ later.
Protests have been held at the military camp - which is being used to house around 400 asylum seekers - in the last few weeks over the alleged cramped and unhygienic living conditions.
This includes guests sleeping outside, going on hunger strike and chanting freedom in order to get the Home Office's attention over the set up.
Activists also threw fake blood at the gates last Thursday and called for the centre to be closed. Two people have been arrested following this demonstration, but officers are seeking two more people.
Solicitors Deighton Pierce Glynn represented the claimant at the hearing, which was held in the Administrative Court in the High Court of Justice with Clive Sheldon QC sitting as Deputy High Court Judge.
The court heard how residents at the barracks have been told they are not permitted to leave under any circumstances and are required to self-isolate following a Covid-19 outbreak. More than 100 people living in the barracks are said to have tested positive.
It was also heard how 14 men share one room and that there is a lack of heating, poor sanitary conditions, and risk Covid-19 spreading.
Since the fire, the claimant has slept on a mattress on the floor of another shared dormitory and the barracks were left for a number of days with very limited electricity, no hot water or heating despite freezing temperatures and limited food and drinking water, the court heard.
The government told the court that transfers away from the barracks were not possible while it was in lockdown, but the claimant submitted that exemptions set out in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 applied, including where it was necessary for the avoidance of further harm.
The court ruled that the claimant had made a strong prima facie (at first sight) case that the accommodation at Napier Barracks was wholly inadequate for him and highlighted in particular the 'prison-like' conditions and the risk of coronavirus.
The court also referred to psychiatric evidence which showed that the claimant’s mental health 'appears to have significantly worsened since being placed at Napier Barracks and that prolonged indefinite accommodation at Napier Barracks has injuriously affected his mental health' and noted that this painted a 'powerful picture'.
The claim will now continue to a hearing which will decide whether permission should be granted to apply for Judicial Review.
Emily Soothill, solicitor at Deighton Pierce Glynn, said: "This is a very welcome decision both for our client, a vulnerable asylum seeker and potential victim of trafficking, but also the other asylum seekers currently accommodated in Napier Barracks, as it means that other residents can now be transferred out and claims regarding the adequacy of the accommodation provided in Napier Barracks, including whether it is in breach of the Article 3 prohibition against inhuman and degrading treatment, can be properly considered by the High Court."
Volunteers from charity Care4Calais worked with Kent Police yesterday to organise a drop off of blankets, bottled water, fresh lemons, fresh ginger, vitamins, tea, coffee, sugar and lots of hand gel.
Volunteers were also able to speak to some of their friends through the barbed wire surrounding the barracks.
In a statement yesterday, the Home Office denied claims there is no heating or hot water at the site.