JRS UK has renewed its calls for an end to the use of barracks as asylum accommodation in the wake of an emergency report raising “serious safeguarding concerns” in relation to accommodation at Napier.
The report, by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) has been released as an emergency interim measure, pending the publication of a full inspection report of the use of barracks and hotels as asylum accommodation. It follows a serious outbreak of COVID-19 at Napier barracks, and highlights that Public Health England had warned the Home Office that accommodation at Napier was not conformed to government coronavirus guidelines. It goes onto say that people at high risk of self-harm in Napier were located in an isolated block unfit for human habitation.
JRS UK’s detention outreach team continue to support men accommodated at Napier. Naomi Blackwell, JRS UK’s Detention Outreach Manager, said: “The initial findings from the ICIBI and HMIP visits to Napier echo what we see – people who have been forced to flee their homes subjected to unsafe, undignified, and inhumane conditions in barracks accommodation. The barracks offer wholly inadequate accommodation, and particularly so in the context of COVID-19 – we have already seen the completely avoidable spread of COVID-19 through an immensely vulnerable group.
“One gentleman I met described Napier as, ‘like being in a hospital or prison, there are people rapidly becoming more and more mentally unwell around you, one has just tried to kill himself, another is in pain, another is very stressed and cannot cope…. I did not feel like a person when I was there. I felt I had lost who I was. The way we were treated, it denied us all freedom.’
“The Home Office has been forced by the Courts to move people out, and despite this and other damning revelations, they continue to proceed recklessly, planning to move more men in shortly. We call on the Home Office to heed the warnings of these findings, and the experiences of the people held in the Barracks, and reverse their immediately stance.
“The barracks are unsafe, undignified, and inhumane and we call for their immediate closure.”
The emergency report also comments on the redeployed barracks accommodation at Penally, with reference to which it also notes many similar issues, including widespread depression among those accommodated there and an egregious lack of planning and communication with local government and communities around both sites.
Image: Image of accommodation areas at Napier, released alongside the inital report: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/an-inspection-of-the-use-of-contingency-asylum-accommodation-key-findings-from-site-visits-to-penally-camp-and-napier-barracks (accessed 09.03.2021)