0348 GMT January 19, 2022
Former residents of Napier Barracks in Kent said that their conditions were “inhumane,” and that some even attempted suicide, according to arabnews.com.
There have been repeated calls for the site to be closed after a fire broke out on Jan. 29 amid disturbances, after at least 120 people caught COVID-19 at the barracks while being forced to live in cramped conditions that prevented social distancing.
At a court hearing, it emerged that the government had previously been warned by Public Health England that the barracks was “not suitable” for housing people during a pandemic.
“It was really shocking for me,” a asylum seeker called Majid, who spent over four months there, told Sky News. “Twenty-eight people were in each block with just two toilets and two showers in a block. Everyone slept close to each other, sharing the same air. There were no supplies to clean or take care of our health.”
He added: “I saw several people attempt suicide and others were self-harming. They were desperate, afraid. We’ve been treated like criminals.”
Another asylum seeker called Mohamed said: “The security officers treated us very badly. They didn’t want to hear from us, and we weren’t allowed to speak to anyone in authority.”
He suggested that the conditions in which he and his fellow residents were kept were what led to the disturbances in January. “We were so shocked at the state of the barracks, and it was this frustration that boiled over,” he said.
Majid said: “I was in my room, and I heard my friend say one of the blocks is on fire. I felt really unsafe and it really traumatized me, seeing the fire, seeing the fear in everyone’s eyes.”
The number of residents at the barracks, which was subject to an inspection earlier this month, has since been reduced from over 400 to 63.
Immigration Compliance Minister Chris Philp said in a statement: “Napier has previously accommodated army personnel, and it is wrong to say it is not adequate for asylum seekers. The department takes the welfare of those in our care extremely seriously.”