Il Ufficio a casa is planning to use a controversial military barracks in Kent to house asylum seekers for four years longer than originally planned, it has been confirmed.
Officials began using the dilapidated Napier barracks near Folkestone in September last year after the site was loaned to the Home Office from the Ministry of Defence. At times more than 400 asylum seekers have been accommodated in dormitories of 14.
Public Health England warned the Home Office that the communal living arrangements could pose a risk of Covid.
But plans went ahead to house asylum seekers from a variety of conflict zones there. In January and February of this year there was a mass outbreak of Covid affecting 197 asylum seekers. The Home Office gradually emptied the barracks but started to refill them in April and there are now once again hundreds of people there despite further cases of Covid being confirmed recently.
The Home Office has also been condemned for placing in the barracks vulnerable people who are victims of torture and other trauma. The barracks has also been a magnet for protests from far-right activists.
Transfers to the barracks were halted after a high court judge in June found the accommodation failed to meet a minimum standard, but have resumed in recent weeks.
The Home Office is submitting a planning application for continued use of the barracks to house asylum seekers up to 2025. This will need to come into force no later than 21 settembre 2021 when the current planning permission expires.
The minister for future borders and immigration, Kevin Foster, disse:“The unprecedented and unacceptable rise in dangerous and illegal small-boat crossings and the Covid-19 pandemic continue to put pressure on our asylum system. As we work to reform the broken asylum system, we must ensure we have sufficient capacity to meet our statutory duty to provide support to genuine and destitute asylum seekers.”
Afghans who travel to the UK via schemes such as the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy or Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme will not be housed in Napier barracks, but Afghan asylum seekers who travel by methods such as small boats may be accommodated there.