Published: 14:12, 22 January 2021
| Updated: 17:03, 22 January 2021
Asylum seekers at Napier Barracks in Folkestone have written an open letter to the public describing the conditions they are living in.
The letter claims 120 people living at the military camp, which was set up by the Home Office last year to house asylum seekers, are now positive with Covid-19.
It says social distancing is not possible and service users have been let down by the Home Office.
The letter was shared by charity Choose Love, and is published below, in full.
Dear all British citizens,
During this challenging time that is happening all over the word and especially in the UK, we had not seen any necessity to explain our situation and defend ourselves until now.
When we are becoming more and more mentally vulnerable and physically ill due to the Covid outbreak in Napier barracks, the Home Office, specifically its Secretary Priti Patel and Minister for Immigration Chris Philp, are intentionally ignoring us and trying their best to cover the disaster which is happening in this army camp.
It is vital to understand that no one chooses to leave the country they were born in, no one chooses to leave their family and loved ones behind.
We came to this country to save our lives, lives which were mostly in danger because of war and persecution. Yet we found ourselves in an army camp and we are surrounded by fences and security guards.
We decided to write this statement to say how the situation is here, as there is no one to defend us from our point of view, when the politicians are either intentionally ignoring or not telling the truth.
Napier Barracks has 16 blocks to house 400 asylum seekers. Three of these have separate private rooms but the 13 others are housing around 28 people each.
These 28 people share one space to sleep next to each other with partitions in between which are open from the top and curtains to secure some kind of privacy.
But we all share one space. We breath in one room and there is no way we can practise social distancing.
Moreover, these 28 people in one block share two toilets and two showers in total.
They also provided extra toilets and showers outside of each block but they are either out of order or have poor hygiene.
Meals are usually served in the communal dining room and we all have to wait in queue to get food three times a day, so we all share one space to eat as well.
By mentioning these facts we want to raise the awareness [of the society] that social distancing is not practicable here.
Each infected person can spread the virus all over the block which is shared with other 27 people and this can cause disaster as it did already.
The Home Office stated that it was the asylum seekers' fault that we did not follow the rules and did not practise social distancing.
By knowing these facts, how is following the guidelines possible?
They expect all 400 people to practise social distancing when not all the people outside the camp do the same.
The question is why the Home Office put 400 people in one place?
On January 14, six cases of Covid were confirmed in one block. Yet the managers of the camp decided to open fences around the block and let infected ones mix with everyone.
They stated as this camp is representing a big house all the parts of it belong to the house so they are allowed to be free inside it.
One week later, 120 cases were confirmed and more test results are yet to be delivered.
They did not isolate the infected ones in the first place, they did not secure us from the pandemic and they announced that the outbreak is our fault.
During the first days of January, there were two people with all the symptoms of Covid. But all they did was to advise them to isolate themselves in their rooms or give them paracetamol.
They still had no choice but to use the same toilet and shower which everyone was using and they also did not get tested.
We are disappointed in the Home Office and the government, we lost our hope as we do not have a voice to defend us.
This statement was just to say that not everything you hear is true.
We are detained without knowing what we have done to deserve living like this or how long we are going to stay here.
After so many protests and some suicide attempts, the Home Office still has no intention to improve the situation.
There are fathers, sons and husbands here.
There are nurses, teachers, engineers and talented people here and yet we have been treated like criminals or prisoners.
Last but not least, we appreciate this nation that has always welcomed immigrants and asylum seekers and showed the world its values of protecting human rights and justice.
Hope you're all safe,
Asylum seekers of Napier Barracks
Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts Chris Philp said: "Despite our best efforts a number of those accommodated at the site have tested positive for coronavirus and are self-isolating.
"It is incredibly disappointing that prior to this a number of individuals refused tests and have been either refusing to self-isolate or follow social distancing rules, despite repeated requests to do so and these being national guidelines to protect the NHS and save lives.
"These individuals could face enforcement action and are not only risking their own health but the health of staff looking after them and the communities who are accommodating them."