Published: 21:41, 19 January 2021
| Updated: 21:49, 19 January 2021
Asylum seekers who have been housed at a barracks in Folkestone have refused to have coronavirus tests.
Around 100 people are said to have caught the virus which many have put down to the conditions they are living in.
Yesterday, KentOnline reported a small number of people living at Napier Barracks had contracted the virus and they were closely following medical advice.
But today, national newspapers have reported that many refused tests and suggested more than 100 people could have the virus.
The minister for immigration compliance, Chris Philp, said: “Despite our best efforts a number of those accommodated at the site have tested positive for coronavirus and are self-isolating.
“It is incredibly disappointing that prior to this a number of individuals refused tests and have been either refusing to self-isolate or follow social distancing rules, despite repeated requests to do so and these being national guidelines to protect the NHS and save lives.
“These individuals could face enforcement action and are not only risking their own health but the health of staff looking after them and the communities who are accommodating them.”
"This cannot be the best the UK has to offer vulnerable people who have fled war and persecution..."
The response has angered local groups who say the conditions they are living in make it impossible to follow guidelines.
Choose Love, a group that helps refugees and displaced people around the world, posted on Twitter: "This is a scandal, but not a surprise.
"Napier Barracks have been described by residents as a prison. But worse.
"This cannot be the best the UK has to offer vulnerable people who have fled war and persecution.
"We call for an immediate closure of the barracks. All residents must be moved to safe accommodation, granted access to adequate healthcare and be allowed to properly isolate."
Doctors of the World tweeted: "We are concerned by reports of a #COVID19 outbreak at the Napier barracks & what impact this quarantine will have on asylum seekers' health.
"We have repeatedly warned ministers about the risks & unsuitability of the barracks. It's time to shut them down."
Additional staff are onsite to 'support' the asylum seekers, the Home Office said.
It added that guests 'have been reminded of their obligations follow Covid-19 restrictions, including not leaving the site and advised they will be subject to police action in line with the UK population'.
This is not the first time coronavirus has broken out at the centre; an asylum seeker tested positive in October.
There are currently around 400 adult men staying at the military camp after the Home Office turned it into a temporary facility for people seeking asylum in the UK.
It comes as the government body was struggling to house everyone due to the rise in people coming to the country, many in small boats having crossed the English Channel.
Since then, demonstrations have taken place from the service users themselves over the living conditions, and from members of far right groups who protest to the arrangement.
Some of the asylum seekers have been sleeping outside as they say the barracks are cramped and offer little privacy. Others are on hunger strike.
MP for the area, Damian Collins, has called for the centre to be closed as quickly as possible.