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Concerns grow over UK barracks housing asylum seekers

A migrants walks in Napier Barracks, a former military barracks being used to house asylum seekers in Folkestone, southeast England on 1 February 2021. [BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images]
A migrants walks in Napier Barracks, a former military barracks being used to house asylum seekers in Folkestone, southeast England on 1 February 2021. [BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images]

Concerns are growing over the UK Home Office's decision to use barracks as accommodation for asylum seekers on the grounds that they are freezing cold, dirty and without drinking water and edible food.

Former Tory Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes has said that the Home Office is using the barracks to make England seem difficult and inhospitable.

In 2012, then home secretary Theresa May told the Telegraph that she wanted to create a hostile environment for asylum seekers.

She implemented a series of administrative and legislative measures designed to make the lives of asylum seekers so difficult that they voluntarily left.

The legacy of her policy, which has been widely criticised, lives on.

Several hundred asylum seekers are currently being held in the Napier Barracks in Folkestone and Hythe, Romsey and Southampton North and in the North East Bedfordshire constituency where there is a development close to Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre.

There have been covid outbreaks and suicide attempts with some saying the barracks remind them of military or prison facilities in the Middle East where they were tortured and sexually abused at home and have triggered flashbacks.

READ: 30 tents destroyed as flooding hits Syria refugee camp

The military barracks were given to the Home Office from the Ministry of Defence in September 2020 so that they could be used as accommodation.

Last Friday, there was a fire at the Napier barracks and the asylum seekers, many who have covid, are trapped there without heating or electricity.

In the blocks of 28 people, each has only two toilets and two showers.

Almost 37,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Home Office to shut the barracks down.

Last week protesters dressed in white boilersuits targeted Napier Barracks throwing red paint which looked like blood at the gates and holding up signs which read, "Priti Patel there will be blood on your hands."

Residents wrote a public letter following the fire:

It is mandatory to see the people in camps as human beings and desperate people. We are all the same, thus we all express our emotions differently when we are under pressure.

In a worrying development for press freedom, photographer Andy Aitchison was arrested at his home after he photographed the protest. Police seized his memory card and his mobile phone.

He was kept in custody for seven hours on suspicion of criminal damage and then released on bail, however his bail conditions do not allow him to go within a certain radius of Napier Barracks.

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