Published: 20:16, 20 September 2020
| Updated: 20:32, 20 September 2020
An Army barracks in Folkestone could be used to house asylum seekers for up to a year, it has been revealed.
It was announced earlier this month that accommodation at Napier Barracks will be used to support those seeking refuge in the UK amid an influx in the number of people arriving on Kent's shores.
The first of 400 asylum seekers are expected to arrive at the site tomorrow (Monday), with more housed thereafter on a daily basis.
Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) initially criticised the move after raising a number of concerns surrounding the lack of notice or consultation, and the impact on local residents.
Leader David Monk called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to "reverse the decision" , but had a change of heart following a meeting with Home Office representatives.
The council has now released more information about how the site will operate after talks were held with Home Office minister Chris Philp.
In a statement on its website, it says: "Many have asked how such a facility can be put in place without local consultation, and we understand the Government is making use of Section 9 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to provide safe accommodation for people who have claimed asylum who would otherwise be destitute, whilst the merits of their asylum claims are being considered.
"The situation nationally has become acute due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had a major impact on the asylum support system.
"A range of options have been looked at to ease the pressure and Napier Barracks was identified. We have been advised that the site has permission for use for up to 12 months and that the use of the facility is temporary."
The council says staff have been working with partner agencies throughout the week to ensure appropriate support measures are in place at the barracks.
The spokesman added: "The contractor running the site is an experienced accommodation and support provider and runs accommodation elsewhere in the UK.
"The focus will be on the welfare of those based at the accommodation, the provision of wraparound services and wider considerations relating to the local area and its residents.
"There will be on-site security and, in order to reduce any additional pressure on local health services, on-site medical services will also be provided.
"Particular attention will be paid to safeguarding and any concerns addressed by the contractor with input from the Home Office safeguarding team.
"We understand that every effort is being made for the facility to be Covid-19 secure and Public Health England is closely involved with the operational plan to ensure the safety of its users and local residents."
The spokesman said it is understood "a small number of asylum seekers" will be moving in tomorrow.
"We expect new arrivals on a daily basis thereafter," they added.
"Those coming to the site will have spent a quarantine period elsewhere and personal welfare and security checks will have been undertaken.
"We have received many offers of help for those who will be living at the barracks - from councillors and residents alike - and we will be able to say more about the volunteering opportunities in the near future."
Developer Taylor Wimpey will receive the Napier Barracks from the Ministry of Defence in 2026 as part of plans to build 1,200 homes on the wider Shorncliffe Barracks site.
It has already secured outline planning permission for the housing scheme.