Priti Patel faces court as asylum seekers remained in barracks in Covid hell

Home Secretary Priti Patel is on trial over plans to keep asylum seekers in grim barracks for another four years.

Some 285 migrants sleep 14 in a dormitory at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, where Covid outbreaks are rife.

The High Court ruled in June that the Home Office acted illegally in placing refugees at the barbed-wire facility – where fires broke out amid unrest in January.

Ms Patel had used contingency planning laws to take over the Defense Ministry base for 12 months.

A full building permit was required to continue using it beyond September 21. But it got it for four more years with a special development order, thus avoiding the scrutiny of local authorities and public consultation.

A damning report declared the Victorian building unfit for habitation



Now, a volunteer who supports residents is challenging the High Court ruling as a violation of planning oversight – and has funded £ 35,000 to fight the case.

If she wins, the Home Office could be forced to shut down Napier.

The woman, who has not been named due to tensions around the case, said: “Housing asylum seekers in this way has been extremely damaging. A full planning application would have given voice to the local population and would have known the full story of the terrible conditions. Instead, the Home Office avoided this process.

“They are still in dormitories that can accommodate up to 14 people. It is very difficult to sleep at night, which can have an impact on mental health.

“Covid is a persistent threat – there are currently positive cases. “

Do you think the Home Office should be allowed to continue using the site? Let us know in the comments

Priti Patel used contingency planning laws to take over Defense Ministry base


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The government has borrowed Napier and a second site, Penally, in Pembrokeshire, to deal with a migrant traffic jam.

Public Health England has advised against placing men in multi-occupancy buildings due to the risks of Covid – but the Home Office opened up the site before recommendations were implemented.

About 200 of the 380 men who lived there in January 2021 contracted the virus – contributing to the unrest.

A damning report from a joint immigration and prison inspectorate team declared the Victorian building ‘unfit for habitation’, with bathrooms shared by 28 people.

A judicial review in June said “substantial improvements” were needed.

While the barbed wire has been removed, the men still sleep in large dormitories with just plywood and curtains to provide privacy.

Jun Pang, of the human rights organization Liberty, said: “We should all have a safe place to take shelter, where our dignity is respected and our needs are met. Napier is far from that.

An interim report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Immigration Detention said the use of the barracks was inappropriate.

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Use of Penally, the other site, was discontinued over the summer.

The Home Office said: “The unprecedented and unacceptable increase in dangerous and illegal small boat crossings and the pandemic continue to put pressure on our asylum system.

“We must have sufficient capacity to fulfill our legal obligation to support genuine and destitute asylum seekers.

“Our new immigration plan will fix the failing asylum system; allowing us to welcome people through safe and legal channels, while preventing abuse of the system and associated crime.

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