The UK government has confirmed its intention to continue using a former barracks as accommodation for asylum seekers until 2025.
Napier Barracks, near Folkestone in the south-east of England, had been touted as a temporary solution that was due to close by September 2021, but will continue to operate for several years as record numbers of migrants arrive in small boats from Northern Europe.
The new breath of life for the 130-year-old military camp comes after a series of critical reports on conditions there and a legal victory for six asylum seekers after a court ruled it was below standards minimum acceptable.
It was hit by a major Covid-19 outbreak early last year that activists blamed on the large numbers housed in military accommodation blocks.
“Deeply disturbing that the Home Office plans to continue using Napier Barracks, the dilapidated former army barracks deemed totally unsuitable as accommodation for asylum seekers, for the considerable future,” said the Refugee Council on Twitter.
The move was expected after the Home Office used its powers to extend use of the site until 2026 in August, fearing that migrants would be left homeless when the temporary permission to use the site as accommodation for asylum seekers expired in September.
The department has now launched a three-week consultation on continued use of the site as it increases the number of sites in the region to be used for accommodation of migrants.
He said last month that a second military base in Kent would be used as a “processing site” to detain migrants for up to five days while security and identity checks are completed.
Napier was used to temporarily house some of the more than 28,000 people who traveled to the UK in 2021 in small boats, three times the number of the previous record year in 2020.
The site has been fiercely criticized by activists since it opened as a temporary home for up to 350 people in September 2020. The conditions were condemned as dirty by an independent watchdog.
Last month, a group of lawmakers and peers called on the Home Office to stop housing asylum seekers in military barracks because it was “not only inappropriate, but downright damaging”.
The all-party parliamentary group on the detention of migrants report said such sites, with prison-like conditions, make them “fundamentally unsuitable” as asylum accommodation and could be “very traumatic” for victims. torture and trafficking.
The Home Office said improvements will be made to the site with its continued use. Migrants stay there for up to 90 days and are free to come and go during the asylum procedure.
The site should be handed over to developers in 2026 as part of a project of nearly 1,000 new homes.
Updated: January 11, 2022, 4:57 p.m.