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Asylum seekers removed from Folkestone's Napier Barracks at '15 minutes notice'

Asylum seekers housed in Napier Barracks were moved out with only 15 minutes notice, it has been claimed.

More than 50 people were transported from the controversial holding facility in Folkestone without being told where they were going, according to a man living there.

Napier Barracks in Folkestone is being used to house asylum seekers (43567098)
Napier Barracks in Folkestone is being used to house asylum seekers (43567098)

The military site has been used to house about 400 asylum seekers since September last year, despite concerns over conditions and Covid safety.

A number of petitions calling for the barracks to be closed have amassed nearly 17,000 names in just two days following claims that the conditions were "inhumane" and made social distancing impossible – claims that the Home Office has denied.

More than 100 people at the facility are reported to have tested positive for the virus, a situation which led to the remaining inhabitants becoming "mentally vulnerable and physically ill", according to an open letter published by charity Choose Love.

It was revealed on Sunday that around 100 people (with negative PCR tests) are to be moved from the site and into hotels over the next few days to make it easier for those remaining to practice social distancing.

One asylum seeker who has been living at the barracks says those being moved "have no idea where they are going or what could happen next”.

Asylum seekers protesting at Napier Barracks over the living conditions earlier this month. Picture: Care4Calais
Asylum seekers protesting at Napier Barracks over the living conditions earlier this month. Picture: Care4Calais

The man, who is from the Middle East, told the Press Association that “around 59 people” were transferred out of the barracks over the weekend.

He believes they were taken to a hotel in nearby Hythe for 10 days but what would happen after that was unclear.

He also said that the situation back in the barracks was still precarious for those people who remained there.

He said: “People who are living here, many of them are still negative, but they (are) sleeping in the same room as positive people.

“We have no idea who’s positive, who’s negative.

"They say just wait, we will find a solution"

“All I know (is) the room next to me is positive and I just found out last night, so maybe I’m carrying it already now.”

He said he believes seven people in his dormitory have contracted coronavirus, adding that rooms are separated by “only a piece of sheet”.

“I went to the office every day, I’m going there for one or two hours asking for a response, but they don’t give any response.

“They say just wait, we will find a solution.”

The Home Office, which took over the site last year, has continued to insist that the accommodation in Kent is “safe, suitable, (and) Covid-compliant”.

It has been contacted for comment on this situation.

The ongoing situation at the barracks – and across the country – was raised at the House of Commons today by Coventry South MP Zarah Sultana.

Addressing Home Secretary Priti Patel, Ms Sultana said: "Locked in, residents of the Napier camp in Kent are forced to sleep in dormitories of 28 people.

"Social distancing and self-isolation are therefore impossible.

"Will the Home Secretary now respect the rights and dignities of these people, close these camps, and provide good safe and liveable housing instead?"

In response, Ms Patel insisted that the barracks are "military bases of very strong standard, so much so that they were housing our service men and women prior to the base being made available to asylum seekers".

She also said that social distancing has been "absolutely in place" and that the sites were "in line with Public Health England guidance".

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone

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