Published: 15:37, 20 April 2021
| Updated: 16:34, 20 April 2021
Hundreds of asylum seekers are expected to move into army barracks in Kent, despite concerns about living conditions and Covid-19 outbreaks.
PA reports that the Home Office plans to increase numbers at Napier Barracks in Folkestone to 337 in the coming weeks.
The agency says it saw an announcement sent to local organisations about the plans.
Currently, there are around 50 men living at the military barracks, which was transformed into accommodation for people seeking asylum in the UK last September.
Around 400 men were living at the site at its highest, which has been plagued by issues since it was first opened.
This includes protests, a fire and around 200 men contracting coronavirus.
MPs, charities and the residents themselves have all called for the camp to close. A similar one set up in Wales has since been shut.
In addition, several inspections at the site have deemed it unsuitable.
One report, from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, described the environment at Napier as "impoverished, run-down and unsuitable for long-term accommodation".
Clare Moseley, founder of charity Care4Calais, told PA: "At the end of the day it’s still dormitory accommodation - how can that be Covid safe?
"What are they going to do if there’s another Covid outbreak? How is it going to be very different?”
"We need leadership that treats refugees with dignity and respect, and we know that people in this country want that."
A Home Office spokesman said steps have been taken to improve the facilities at Napier. This includes reducing the number of residents on site, enhanced Covid management plan, twice weekly testing, rebuilding kitchens which were damaged by the January fire and supplying residents with personal cleaning kits.
The spokesman added that the Home Office temporarily moved asylum seekers out of Napier into self-isolation facilities earlier this year, in order to allow others at Napier to self-isolate more easily.
Now the outbreak has been declared over, this is no longer necessary, they said.
The spokesman continued: "While pressure on the asylum system remains we will continue to make use of Napier Barracks.
"Asylum seekers are staying in safe, suitable, Covid-compliant conditions, where they receive three nutritious meals a day.
"Napier has previously housed army personnel so it is an insult to say they are not adequate for asylum seekers. We have also made a significant number of improvements to the site following feedback from residents and inspectors.
"Our New Plan for Immigration will reform the broken asylum system; allowing us to welcome people through safe and legal routes, while preventing abuse of the system and the criminality associated with it.”
More people arrive in Dover today. Video: Chris Johnson
It comes as more people have been filmed arriving in Dover today, having made a dangerous journey across the English Channel to reach Kent.
Footage shows a small child being taken from a boat and wrapped in a blanket.
One witness said around 100 people have arrived today at Dover and also at Dungeness.
It follows seven crossings yesterday.
The Home Office has been approached for a comment.