Published: 11:23, 30 September 2020
| Updated: 11:27, 30 September 2020
A charity has hit out following reports asylum seekers being housed at military barracks are living in 'cramped and unsanitary conditions' which are not Covid safe.
It comes after claims up to 20 men are staying in one room at the Napier Barracks in Folkestone , which is now operating as a holding site for around 400 people who are seeking refuge in the UK.
It has been set up by the Home Office, which has a legal obligation to take care of asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute.
The government body was desperate for more locations to house people following record number of boats arriving on Kent shores from France in recent months, and the Ministry of Defence offered Napier Barracks.
People started moving in earlier this month .
But Detention Action, which supports people held under immigration powers, has called the arrangement at the barracks 'inappropriate'.
Their comments follow on from a report in the Mirror newspaper in which a service user said 20 men are staying in one dormitory.
The Home Office however says that the accommodation follows all Covid-19 guidelines and says social distancing is in place.
Director of Detention Action Bella Sankey said: "Use of an army barracks to house traumatised asylum seekers is inappropriate enough, and now we hear Government is packing people in 20 to a room.
"It is difficult to see how this can comply with Covid guidance, nor risk undermining public health.
"We have a moral and legal obligation to offer protection to the world's most vulnerable, not expose them to a deadly virus in cramped and unsanitary conditions."
A Home Office spokeswoman said: "This characterisation is wrong - nobody staying at Napier Barracks is being detained.
“Asylum seekers are able to come and go from the accommodation and are staying in safe, Covid-compliant conditions, in line with the law and social distancing requirements."
The spokeswoman added that public health advice was sought "to make best use of this accommodation, minimising risks from Covid-19" and says "occupancy in dormitories is limited to ensure a minimum distance between beds of at least 2 metres".
Other additional safety measures include increased cleaning of surfaces, hand sanitisers, and use of track and trace system.
The site is operating in line with existing accommodation standards of one toilet and shower per five people, the spokeswoman confirmed.
Last week, during a cross agency meeting - which included representatives from the council, Home Office and police - it was revealed people living in dormitories will be considered one household in terms of Covid-19 restrictions.
The meeting also revealed that only single men will stay at the barracks , no families, and that all were placed in two weeks quarantine before moving there.
All meals and toiletires are also provided for the guests, and they are not given a cash allowance. However some people might have their own money.
MP for Folkestone and Hythe Damian Collins has previously criticised the Home Office for their decision to use Napier Barracks .
But he now says it is important to work together to ensure the arrangement 'runs smoothly'.
He said: "I still remain of the opinion that creating a hostel style open camp for over 400 asylum seekers in the heart of a residential community was the wrong decision.
"However, now that Napier Barracks is being used for this purpose, it is important that our local public services work together with the operator of the facility in order to ensure things run as smoothly as possible.
"Napier Barracks is an open facility, and it would be against the law to detain asylum seekers by securing the site.
"Whilst they can come and go as they like, they are required to spend the night in the barracks."