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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Probe into unsuitable asylum seeker accommodation

At last some accountability for the Home Office with the Guardian reporting that MPs and peers from the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on immigration detention have agreed to proceed with an inquiry into the government's use of sites such as military barracks to accommodate asylum seekers.

Members of the group have described the Home Office’s use of large-scale, institutional sites as “quasi-detention”, saying that although the likes of Napier barracks in Folkestone are not technically immigration detention the accommodation shares many features with it.

The group say these include isolation from the wider community and related difficulties accessing medical and legal support, visible security measures such as use of patrols and barbed wire, reduced levels of privacy and restriction of movement such as signing in and signing out and curfews.

Alison Thewliss MP, the chair of the APPG, said: “The recent report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) on this type of contingency accommodation underlined serious deficiencies in provision. Indeed, the group has written on a number of occasions to ministers regarding concerns such as ineffective safeguarding, unsanitary conditions, inadequate social distancing, and many other issues besides.

“Responses – when they have arrived – have fallen way short, and failed to provide any sort of reassurance. It remains a significant concern that people are being transferred to Napier barracks given the nature of the complaints that many have made about the conditions there. Given the serious nature of the concerns raised, the group feels it is appropriate to undertake an inquiry to properly examine the conditions that people are being asked to endure”.

A Home Office spokesperson said that asylum seekers at Napier have the same access to health services as other members of the community and denied that a curfew has operated at the barracks.

The news comes as at least 10 new legal challenges have been launched by asylum seekers transferred to Napier over the last few days.

It is thought that about 45 asylum seekers have been moved there since 9 April after the Home Office moved out the last of the previous group accommodated there this month. Up to 400 people have been housed at Napier since it opened as asylum accommodation in September 2020, half of whom contracted Covid following an outbreak there.

Many of the new residents at Napier are understood to have arrived in the UK on small boats in recent weeks. Some have been identified as victims of torture and potential victims of trafficking. The new legal actions focus on claims that the Home Office has failed to carry out vulnerability assessments and that some of those accommodated there should not be there due to their past experiences.

This accommodation is not fit for purpose and this investigation is very welcome.
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