Published: 13:33, 14 January 2021
| Updated: 13:34, 14 January 2021
Calls are being made for Napier Barracks - which is housing hundreds of asylum seekers - to be closed as soon as possible.
The military barracks in Folkestone was transformed into a temporary site for people seeking asylum in September by the Home Office.
Since then, tensions have run high as service users - all single, adult men - have complained about the cramped conditions, lack of privacy and Covid-19 fears.
Only two days ago, police were called after people gathered outside the gates chanting 'freedom'. It is not the first protest to take place at the barracks.
Since the weekend, some guests have also been sleeping outside in demonstration over the living conditions, while others are on hunger strike.
Charities have since called on the Home Office to take action.
Now, Damian Collins, MP for the Folkestone district, has written to the government department to ask for an urgent update on the conditions at the army camp.
He is also calling for all claims to be processed as soon as possible so the site can be closed.
Mr Collins said: "I raised my concerns about the suitability of using Napier Barracks to accommodate so many people at the start of this process.
"I have written to the Home Office today to them to ask for an urgent update on the conditions in the barracks.
"Napier Barracks was only intended to be a temporary facility and best solution now would be for the asylum seekers to have their claims processed as soon as possible and for this facility to be closed down."
Bosses at Detention Action, a charity which supports people in immigration detention, also claim some asylum seekers living at Napier have made suicide attempts.
Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said: "The government needs to get ahead of this situation and make an urgent U-turn before this experiment ends in disaster.
"It's no good pretending that all is well, when those being held at the barracks are telling you that life is unbearable and the suicide attempts mount by the day.
"The UK has the means to accommodate those seeking safety in houses in our towns, cities and villages - the Home Office must get on and do this, there is no excuse for delay."
As of December 2020, the Home Office is providing accommodation for 61,327 people under asylum support provisions.
This has increased from 47,000 people since 2019.
Chris Philp, Immigration Compliance Minister, said: "The government takes the wellbeing of asylum seekers extremely seriously.
"We provide asylum seekers with safe, warm, Covid secure suitable accommodation where they receive three meals a day whilst their claims are being processed.
"They are not detained and are free to come and go in line with Covid-19 restrictions.
"We have a robust complaints process where the people who we support or people representing them can raise concerns if they are not rectified through the 24/7 helpline run by Migrant Help.
"Those at Napier have generally come from France by small boat.
"This journey is not only dangerous but unnecessary - France is a safe country with a well-functioning asylum system.
"Migrants should not make this journey in the first place."
A spokesman for the Home Office also disputed claims that four people have attempted to take their own life in the last month.
Charity Care4Calais is also supporting the people living at the barracks, and took to Facebook to share images of asylum seekers sleeping outside in freezing conditions.
A post read: "Some of our friends at Napier Barracks, where the Home Office is housing over 400 asylum seekers, slept outside last night in protest of the conditions there.
"They feel that they have no other way for their voices to be heard. They are frustrated and exhausted, having spent months being told by the barracks managers that they will be moved to more suitable accommodation.
"At the barracks, the men are isolated and cut off from vital support - most experience a severe decline in their mental health.
"This type of accommodation is entirely inappropriate for people who may have suffered through human trafficking, torture and imprisonment.
"They are surrounded by barbed wire fencing; the military or detention environment re-traumatises those living there and they struggle to keep going.
"Asylum seekers are some of the most resilient people we know. They have fled war, persecution and injustice, have crossed continents and survived more than we could ever imagine in the hopes that they would finally be safe and happy in the U.K. It should not be here that they lose hope."
The charity has set up a fundrasier to purchase the residents warm winter clothes, gloves and hats.
The Home Office says "a very small number of individuals" are sleeping outside.
A spokesman added: "There is no reason to sleep outside as we, at the taxpayers’ expense, provide those at Napier Barracks with safe, warm, Covid-compliant accommodation.
"The Government takes the wellbeing of asylum seekers extremely seriously and is fulfilling its statutory obligation to support them, including with health support.
"Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the asylum system has faced significant pressures and it has become necessary to use additional temporary accommodation to ensure the Home Office can continue to meet all of its statutory obligations."