Following the December 2020 action to close the ex army barracks housing hundreds of people seeking sanctuary, there have been a series of extremely worrying developments, including an outbreak of COVID 19 which has put Napier into lockdown. The situation has turned into a humanitarian crisis. See the Hastings Community of Sanctuary article on Napier Barracks here. Numerous other press reports have exposed cover ups, censorship and the harm experienced by residents in both Napier and Penally barracks, including psychological stress, hunger strikes and residents’ protests.. Please see the letter sent from 200 of the residents at Napier Barracks. The backlash has been to blame the residents themselves and bully them into compliance.
“They have had enough of the poor food, bullying from security staff, cold huts, lack of medical care, blocked toilets, poor adherence to Covid regulations (some staff don’t bother to wear masks), lack of mental health support, but above all, being treated as prisoners rather than asylum seekers. Things must change.” Western Telegraph
There have also been allegations of poor conditions, poor food quality, inadequate heating and hot water, and mental health crises at RAF Coltishall in Norfolk where people are isolated miles from the nearest town.
It is vital that sanctuary supporters take action to advocate for change to end this shameful implicit policy of merging Initial Accommodation Centres with detention centres. New arrivals face remote isolation and struggle to access legal support, healthcare and other services. Already the Home Office is under pressure to publish their review of asylum accommodation.
Please use the links below to act where you can and share this article with your support networks.
Freedom From Torture have launched a petition to empty the barracks, close the camps and save lives.. Please support and share widely!
Hastings Community of Sanctuary petition calls for clean, safe, humane accommodation and access to legal representation, for people seeking asylum.
Care for Calais, Refugee Action, Stand up to Racism and Legacy of Windrush Descendants have a petition – Stop plans to house asylum seekers in Yarl’s Wood camp. Legal action is being taken against the Home Office for these plans and you can support the crowdfunder here.
There are also plans to build a ‘prison-style’ immigration camp on the site of former notorious Medomsley Detention Centre in County Durham and we expect mobilisation against this in the coming weeks.
Write to your MP
As per our December article above you can use the Refugee Action email template to write to your MP if you have not done so already. The Choose Love campaign also has a more up to date but less strong email template. Ideally use both templates to create your own email to your MP and urge for immediate action.
Write to UN Special Rapporteurs, Peers in the House of Lords, Local Councillors
There are no specific templates but see the Refugee Action, Choose Love and Waging Peace templates and adapt according to your audience. Please see Submission to UN re Napier Barracks 4.2.21 for contacts and information on Special Rapporteurs whom you can write to. There are so many aspect of human rights being trashed by this policy.
City of Sanctuary will endeavour to update this article and keep you informed of any other actions you can take. We a want to live in a country that is better than this. A country which has a safe, fair and effective asylum system that is just and humane. We are better than this. We want to welcome people seeking sanctuary.
Call for evidence: inspection into barracks accommodation
The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration invites anyone with knowledge & experience of the Home Office’s use of hotels & barracks as contingency asylum accommodation to submit evidence. Please help with if you can. Access the call here. Many groups in the network will have experience of the difficulties people face in hotel conditions. Asylum Matters will be submitting evidence to this call – so do get in touch if your group / organisation does not want to make your own submission but there is something that you want to say. They would particularly welcome information on the following areas:
- Communication and consultation by the accommodation providers / Home Office about the placing of hotels in your particular area;
- Communication by providers to people in hotels: including on facilities, Covid management and accommodation moves.
If you are working with people in hotels you can also directly engage with the Temporary Accommodation Handbook – put together by Refugee Action, Asylum Matters and others to collate ways of working to support people in hotels or similar temporary asylum accommodation.
APPG on detention
The APPG on detention held a meeting in November 2020, considering the issue of the processing of small boat arrivals. The meeting heard evidence from HMIP and others, and a briefing was also prepared by the residents of Penally. You can access the meeting minutes and the report here.
Avid has flagged the inadequacy of the response from Chris Philp MP to the joint letter to the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration calling for the closure of barracks style military camps.
February 3rd: A deputy High Court judge has ordered that an asylum seeker be urgently rehoused from Napier barracks as his mental health has ‘significantly worsened’ since being placed at the site.
The Guardian reported on 2nd February that the former Immigration Minister and other Conservative backbenchers are joining the criticism of the Home Office plans to use military barracks and other remote camps to house people seeking sanctuary.
The Bishop of Bedford is among more than 70 people of faith, community representatives and concerned citizens who have written an open letter to the Home Office expressing concern about the proposal to temporarily accommodate 200 asylum seekers at any one time, in new prefab-style buildings at Yarl’s Wood.
Some residents housed in Napier Barracks were moved out last month with only 15 minutes notice, it has been claimed. More than 50 people were transported from the controversial holding facility in Folkestone without being told where they were going, according to a man living there. Since the fire, resulting in no heating or hot water, residents have been told there will be not imminent future moves from these appalling conditions. We have also had reports that blankets were refused by staff when volunteers took them to the barracks on request.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has defended using military barracks to house asylum seekers amid calls to close them. However, internal documents reveal that the policy is driven by the desire to appease those opposed to decent accommodation for people seeking sanctuary; “any provision of support over and beyond what is necessary to enable individuals to meet their housing and subsistence needs could undermine public confidence in the asylum system and hamper wider efforts to tackle prejudice and promote understanding within the general community.”