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Petitions demand closure of Napier Barracks, Folkestone, to asylum seekers

Petitions calling for army barracks holding asylum seekers to close amassed nearly 17,000 names.

One, by the charity Freedom from Torture, got 11,909 online signatures by 5pm today, having gained more than 8,500 a few hours after being set up yesterday.

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

The second, from the group Choose Love, gained 4,895 by the same time.

Campaigners want the two decommissioned sites to no longer house asylum seekers because they insist the conditions are inhumane.

These are Napier Barracks in Folkestone and Penalty Barracks in Pembrokeshire, Wales.

They want the residents to be moved to safe accommodation with proper conditions.

Inhabitants at Napier put out an open letter yesterday saying that 120 people there had Covid-19.

There is growng demand to move asylum seekers to better accommodation
There is growng demand to move asylum seekers to better accommodation

The online petition from Freedom from Torture says: "People are sleeping in dormitory-style blocks with bunk beds and are unable to socially distance or properly self-isolate. They do not have access to adequate healthcare.

"Trapped in the camps, the mental health of residents is deteriorating too and there have been a number of suicide attempts.

"Now there's been a Covid outbreak in one of the barracks and it can only be a matter of time before infection is rife in both centres."

The one by Choose Love says: "There is no adequate mental health support and currently 22 residents of Napier barracks are on suicide watch.

"Despite over quarter of the entire population of the Napier barracks facility having COVID-19, nothing has been done to help people isolate or socially distance. "

Rosie Duffield, MP for Canterbury has also joined the growing number of voices.

She has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel demanding the immediate shutdown of the barracks.

She said: "We received first hand information that conditions are atrocious.

"Access to medical care is very limited with a single nurse visiting the compound once a day and only able to prescribe paracetamol."

But Chris Philp, Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts, said that some at Napier had refused Covid testing and failed to self-isolate before the outbreak there.

He said: "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."

Those claims were disputed in the open letter from those at the barracks.

The petition from Freedom from Torture can be viewed here and the one from Choose Love here.

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