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Asylum seeker living at Napier Barracks in Folkestone describes the conditions people are living in there


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A man who came to the UK to seek asylum has revealed the 'good and the bad' about being housed in military barracks in Kent.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, claims some people staying at Napier Barracks in Folkestone have started to self-harm due to the "negative environment" they are living in.

Napier Barracks in Folkestone is being used to house asylum seekers
Napier Barracks in Folkestone is being used to house asylum seekers

He says 25 people share one toilet and bedroom and have to wash in open showers, while 13 people crowd around two tables at meal times.

He fears the layout is making it difficult to adhere to social distancing rules made necessary due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The barracks, in Sandgate, was turned into a temporary holding site for around 400 people who are seeking refuge in the UK last month by the Home Office.

It came as the government was struggling to accommodate everyone who has entered the country, many having crossed the English Channel on small boats.

Around 90 hotels across the country are also currently being used as accommodation for people coming into the UK.

Security guards the gates. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA
Security guards the gates. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA

At Napier, only single, adult men live there, rather than families or children.

The man who spoke to KentOnline said: "I am an asylum seeker inside the camp and in my opinion it's a reasonable temporary place.

"I know they are trying to cut the costs, which I understand. But they're getting more asylum seekers, which is making it so difficult to adhere to safety of the coronavirus."

He adds there is little personal space or privacy and the hygiene and food are also poor, although he adds that the quality of the food has improved in the last week.

He said he "doesn't want to complain" but "to reveal the truth".

Police were called to the barracks following reports a drone was being flown. It came as a group of people gathered outside the gates, appearing to protest that asylum seekers have moved into the barracks. Picture: Youtube account: Xx T W xX
Police were called to the barracks following reports a drone was being flown. It came as a group of people gathered outside the gates, appearing to protest that asylum seekers have moved into the barracks. Picture: Youtube account: Xx T W xX

The man says security have to protect the people living at the army barracks from the "far right", some of whom have been seen to stand outside the gates in protest at the arrangement.

Last month, police were called and spoke to a group of people who had gathered outside the barracks and some hateful comments have also been posted online.

And although the asylum seekers are free to leave in the day, the man adds that many choose to stay on site.

He said: "For my own safety I prefer not to leave. If we go to the shop to buy something people will try and video me by force, invading my personal space. When I refuse by raising my hand, they yell that I'm going to attack them.

"Imagine living in such negative surroundings on a daily basis.

The army site could be used by the Home Office for one year
The army site could be used by the Home Office for one year

"On a daily basis people are harming themselves. There is only one doctor for everyone here.

"As an asylum seeker I care about the emotional support.

"There are stereotypes that asylum seekers are criminals. It is not helpful.

"I came to find a safe place, not to be surrounded by fence and being detained as a criminal.

"I would say to the far right, you're lucky to get such a government, otherwise your fate will be the same as mine.

"We need support and safe land to live in, not hate speech."

"Nevertheless, the people you're talking about are vulnerable, well-educated. They just fled, leaving their families and friends and beloved ones behind forcibly.

"We need support and safe land to live in, not hate speech."

The Home Office has borrowed the barracks from the Ministry of Defence and could use the site for up to one year.

A Home Office spokesman said: "This characterisation is wrong - asylum seekers at Napier Barracks are staying in safe, Covid-compliant conditions, in line with the law and social distancing requirements.

"We are determined to fix our broken asylum system. An asylum system should provide safe haven to those fleeing persecution, oppression or tyranny.

"But right now, ours enables organised criminals to elbow the most vulnerable to the side.

"We take the wellbeing of asylum seekers extremely seriously and have taken every effort to ensure that the sites operate safely, securely and taking account of public health guidance.

"Asylum seekers are able to contact Migrant Help 24 hours a day, 365 days a year if they need help, advice or guidance."

Last month, a charity described the set up as ' cramped and unsanitary' and raised fears it is not Covid safe.

A welcome event has been organised for this weekend by Kent Refugee Action Network to show the support for the people staying at the barracks.

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone

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