Asylum seekers at ex-Army barracks hit by Covid outbreak say people without the virus are forced to share rooms with others who tested positive as dozens are moved into quarantine at nearby hotels ‘at 15 minutes notice’
- Napier Barracks has been used to house 400 asylum seekers since September
- An outbreak of coronavirus was recorded at the site over the weekend, 120 cases
- Now, some say they have been forced to share rooms with Covid-positive people
- Also been claimed others were given 15 minutes before being moved to hotels
Asylum seekers at a coronavirus-hit army barracks are being forced to share rooms with those who test positive, it has been claimed.
Napier Barracks in Kent has been used to house about 400 asylum seekers since September last year, despite concerns over conditions.
Over the weekend, it emerged that a coronavirus outbreak had been recorded at the site with 120 thought to have tested positive.
Now, an asylum seeker living at the barracks has claimed Covid-positive patients have been sharing rooms with him and others.
When they were eventually moved, he claims, they were given ‘only 15 minutes’ notice before being taken to nearby hotels to quarantine.
A migrant, 38, holds his negative NHS coronavirus test paperwork after an outbreak at Napier Barracks
An asylum seeker living at the barracks has claimed Covid-positive patients have been sharing rooms with others
Dozens of people were moved out of Napier Barracks in Kent after dark over the weekend.
An asylum seeker who has been living at the barracks said: ‘They have no idea where they are going or what could happen next.’
Fears for their welfare have escalated after 120 people are believed to have tested positive for coronavirus.
On Tuesday Home Secretary Priti Patel insisted the accommodation was of a ‘very strong’ standard and ‘in line with PHE guidance’.
The asylum seeker, who is from the Middle East, said that ‘around 59 people’ were transferred out of the barracks over the weekend.
He believes they were taken to a hotel in nearby Hythe for ten days but what would happen after that was unclear.
‘They don’t know what’s next’, he said.
The man also described a precarious situation for those left at the barracks, where the virus has been spreading.
‘People who are living here, many of them are still negative, but they (are) sleeping in the same room as positive people.
Dozens of people were moved out of Napier Barracks in Kent after dark over the weekend
Fears for the welfare of the asylum seekers have escalated after 120 people are believed to have tested positive for coronavirus
‘We have no idea who’s positive, who’s negative.
‘All I know (is) the room next to me is positive and I just found out last night, so maybe I’m carrying it already now.’
He said he believes seven people in his dormitory have contracted coronavirus, adding that rooms are separated by ‘only a piece of sheet’.
‘I went to the office every day, I’m going there for one or two hours asking for a response, but they don’t give any response.
‘They say just wait, we will find solution.’
The Home Office, which took over the site last year, insists the accommodation in Kent is ‘safe, suitable, (and) Covid-compliant’.
At the weekend the department said that a number of asylum seekers were being moved from Napier Barracks ‘temporarily’ into self-isolation facilities.
The Home Office, which took over the site last year, insists the accommodation in Kent is ‘safe, suitable, (and) Covid-compliant’
A petition to shut down Napier Barracks, along with a similar facility at a barracks in Wales, has amassed more than 15,000 signatures
This was ‘in order to allow others at Napier to self-isolate more easily’, a spokesman said.
Ms Patel said on Tuesday: ‘The reason why we have removed a number of asylum seekers over the weekend is actually to protect others from catching coronavirus, that is absolutely the right thing to do.’
She added: ‘The accommodation facilities that we are using are military bases that are of very strong standard so much so they were housing our servicemen and women prior to being made available to asylum seekers.
‘The reason why the base was made available, in line with PHE guidelines, was because of coronavirus we need space of social distancing. We have always worked with the PHE guidance.’
A petition to shut down Napier Barracks, along with a similar facility at a barracks in Wales, has amassed more than 15,000 signatures.
The petition by Freedom from Torture to empty the barracks in Kent and Wales and close them down racked up more than 10,000 signatures in less than two days.
Kolbassia Haoussou, lead survivor advocate at the charity, said: ‘A major crisis is unfolding in these unsanitary and dangerous places
Many of the people trapped here have low immune systems and mental health issues linked to the abuse they have fled.
‘The Government has the power to end this nightmare now. Empty the barracks, close the camps, save lives.’
Bella Sankey, director of charity Detention Action, echoed calls to shut the barracks ‘before they are engulfed by tragedy’.
Immigration minister Chris Philp said: ‘We take the welfare of those in our care extremely seriously and asylum seekers can contact the 24/7 helpline run by Migrant Help if they have any issues.’
Use of Napier Barracks to house asylum seekers was initially authorised for six months under emergency provisions but the Home Office has said it is considering extending its use beyond the current deadline in around March.
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