Asylum seeker at UK’s first migrant camp says conditions are ‘unbearable’

Asylum seeker living at UK’s first migrant camp in Kent Army barracks says conditions are ‘unbearable’ with 34 people sharing one shower as dozens chant ‘freedom’ and stage hunger strike inside

  • Napier Barracks is one of two MoD sites being used to house asylum seekers 
  • Dozens of migrants at the barracks in Kent protested over poor living conditions  
  • One resident has complained of a lack of privacy and said they struggle to sleep

An asylum seeker living at Britain’s first migrant camp claims conditions are ‘unbearable’, with a ‘lack of privacy’ and 34 people sharing one shower.

Napier Barracks, near Folkestone, in Kent, is being used by the Home Office to house asylum seekers including people who have crossed the Channel in small boats.

There have been reports of suicide attempts at the military facility and yesterday, around 40 residents gathered outside the barbed wire-topped fence chanting ‘freedom’ and waving banners.

Hunger strikers demanded ‘basic human rights’ and a move to ‘safe’ accommodation, with one migrant admitting that he feared catching Covid-19

Several dozen people stood outside the gates of the military facility to demonstrate over conditions inside and social distancing concerns

Several dozen people stood outside the gates of the military facility to demonstrate over conditions inside and social distancing concerns

Handout photo issued by Care4Calais of asylum seekers conducting a sleep out overnight

Handout photo issued by Care4Calais of asylum seekers conducting a sleep out overnight

Many are on hunger strike and sleeping outside despite the cold nights in protest at conditions in the camp.

One resident who has been living at the barracks since September complained of a lack of privacy and said they struggle to sleep.

They said: ‘I am protesting because the conditions here are not good. Thirty-four of us share one shower and one toilet.

‘There is no privacy. At night no one can sleep because there is too much noise. The situation is unbearable. You cannot settle and there is no peace and quiet.’

The resident said they are also worried about coronavirus because of the cramped conditions.

There have been reports of suicide attempts within the Ministry of Defence-owned army barracks, where asylum seekers have been held for months

There have been reports of suicide attempts within the Ministry of Defence-owned army barracks, where asylum seekers have been held for months

Many migrants gathered outside the barbed wire-topped fence at Napier Barracks in Folkestone at around 1pm chanting 'freedom!' and waving banners

Many migrants gathered outside the barbed wire-topped fence at Napier Barracks in Folkestone at around 1pm chanting ‘freedom!’ and waving banners

One man attempted to take his own life on Friday as he was 'unable to cope with the conditions there any more', according to migrant charity Care4Calais

One man attempted to take his own life on Friday as he was ‘unable to cope with the conditions there any more’, according to migrant charity Care4Calais

They added: ‘It’s a military set-up here, it’s like being in prison. You can’t do anything without someone knowing, everything you do is watched.

‘I don’t feel safe here, I’m really struggling mentally, the thoughts I’m having are very hard.

‘Being here brings up bad memories, particularly at night. I am suffering from nightmares of my memories.

‘I’m not getting any sleep, three or four hours, maybe, each night. I am tired.’

Napier Barracks is one of two Ministry of Defence sites being used to house asylum seekers.

They were loaned to the Home Office as the department struggled to house the thousands of people who crossed the English Channel in small boats last year.

Napier Barracks was designated to house about 400 asylum seekers, more than any other Home Office ‘initial accommodation site’.

Chris Philp, Immigration Compliance Minister, said:

‘The Government takes the wellbeing of asylum seekers extremely seriously. We provide asylum seekers with safe, warm, Covid secure suitable accommodation where they receive three meals a day whilst their claims are being processed.

‘They are not detained and are free to come and go in line with Covid-19 restrictions. We have a robust complaints process where the people who we support or people representing them can raise concerns if they are not rectified through the 24/7 helpline run by Migrant Help.

‘Those at Napier have generally come from France by small boat. This journey is not only dangerous but unnecessary – France is a safe country with a well-functioning asylum system. Migrants should not make this journey in the first place.’