Asylum seekers protest conditions at UK military camp, while refugee complains of living in 'hell'

Asylum seekers protest conditions at UK military camp, while refugee complains of living in 'hell'
Asylum seekers in a camp in Kent are peacefully protesting abysmal conditions.
4 min read
13 January, 2021
Kent residents had welcomed the migrants in October last year [Getty]

Hundreds of migrants held at a temporary camp in Kent, UK have gone on a hunger strike to protest the worsening conditions at the overcrowded site and the threat of Covid-19.

Some 400 men are currently being held at the camp, which was set up at the former Napier military barracks in Folkstone last September.

It faces allegations of overcrowding - compounded by the coronavirus pandemic - as well as an alleged cover-up by the Home Office.

Refugees have also complained about limited access to healthcare and legal advise.

Volunteers had reportedly been asked to sign confidentiality agreements before entering the site, where there has been two alleged suicide attempts and ongoing protests in recent weeks.

Earlier this week, some 350 men went on hunger strike to protest overcrowding, which they say increases their chances of contracting Covid-19, as well as poor hygiene.

According to videos smuggled out of the camp, broken down toilets and out-of-order sinks can be seen in some of the bathrooms, The Guardian revealed.

Some men are sleeping outside in freezing conditions due to the dangers of contracting Covid-19 inside the former barracks.

Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, said: "We're extremely worried about the asylum seekers held in Napier barracks. The conditions they are being kept in are cramped, stressful and dangerous. Asylum seekers have fled terrifying dangers, wars and persecution. They need support and protection - instead our government is treating them with cruelty.

"The Home Office can quickly solve this crisis by processing asylum seekers' claims. They want to work, settle in this country and contribute to society. Processing their claims would give them the opportunity to rebuild their lives instead of keeping them in this cruel limbo, and remove the need for unsafe short-term asylum housing."

Kent residents, who in October stood outside the site holding "welcome" banners, have returned to the former army base this time brandishing placards reading "freedom".

They have joined the migrants' protest over poor living conditions.

Volunteers have been refused access to the site due to a high number of coronavirus cases, but one volunteer described conditions there as "prison-like".

Napier is one of a number of camps where refugees are subject to "inhumane conditions", according to human rights organisations.

At a former military base in Wales, migrants protested over conditions there, calling it "Save Us from Covid 19".

Demonstrators held up placards, including one that read "We escaped from war to prison", after being kept at a site in Penally, Pembrokeshire.

Another placard read: "Where are the human rights?" and "We want justice".

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford previously called for the immigrants to be removed from Penally due to issues over "living conditions".

"It is unacceptable that the Home Office has repeatedly failed to address serious issues regarding living conditions at Penally military camp," Drakeford said.

"The Welsh Government and local service providers have continually informed the Home Office of grave deficiencies in the standard of accommodation for asylum seekers." 

Drakeford said that the Home Office had failed to act in any meaningful way.

"The welfare and safety of asylum seekers on site must not be compromised, and the wellbeing of the local community must be treated as priority by the Home Office," he said.

A Home Office spokesperson previously said the government is using "contingency accommodation" and works closely with organisations to ensure asylum seekers have "suitable accommodation".

In a different part of England, Iraqi refugee Intesar Hassan, who was sent to East Yorkshire with her children eight years ago said life in Hull is "hell".

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"When I think about Iraq and Hull, they are the same to me," Hassan, who is in a wheelchair, told the Mail Online.

The family had been placed in a private-rented house in west Hull, which, Hassan says has no heating and damp.

"When I came here my health conditioned worsened and are getting worse day by day in this house.

"I cannot walk, talk or eat due to the conditions I am living in. All night long I worry about the house."

"I open the windows at night because I can't breathe from the damp inside the house. I told the Refugee Council that the house is freezing but they didn't do anything. We have no heating and no maintenance work has been done on the house in the past eight years."

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