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03 June 2021

Timeline of key events at Napier Barracks

03 June 2021

Napier Barracks in Kent has been the subject of controversy throughout its use by the Home Office to house asylum seekers.

Here, the PA news agency recaps some of the key moments concerning the Folkestone site in the past several months:

September 2020:

– It is announced that asylum seekers – among them people who have crossed the Channel in small boats – are to be housed in military barracks while their claims are processed.

Napier Barracks (PA Archive)

– Around a week later, the first residents are moved into Napier Barracks.

October:

– Up to 200 people gather outside the barracks to greet their “new neighbours”.

November:

– The Home Office is accused of “trying to gag” volunteers visiting Napier Barracks using the Official Secrets Act.

January 2021:

– Residents go on hunger strike and begin sleeping outdoors in protest at conditions at the barracks.

– Fears of a health crisis at Napier Barracks escalate after 120 people are believed to have tested positive for coronavirus.

– A petition to shut down the site, along with a similar facility at a barracks in Wales, amasses more than 10,000 signatures.

– Dozens of residents are moved out of Napier Barracks following the virus outbreak. The Home Office said this was “in order to allow others at Napier to self-isolate more easily”.

Napier Barracks fire (PA Wire)

– Arrests are made after a fire breaks out at the barracks and the Home Office alleges that windows had been smashed.

February:

– An asylum seeker accused of assaulting a security guard at Napier Barracks on the day of the fire denies all charges at Medway Magistrates’ Court.

– Home Office minister Chris Philp insists “no apology is due and none will be made” for housing asylum seekers at the former army barracks.

– It emerges that Public Health England (PHE) gave warnings the dormitories at Napier Barracks were “not suitable” for use, according to court documents.

– A photographer who was slapped with an “unlawful” Covid-19 fine after reporting on a protest outside the barracks says he is “deeply concerned” about the freedom of the press.

– Senior Home Office officials confirm that almost 200 people tested positive for coronavirus during the outbreak at Napier Barracks, far higher than initially reported.

March:

– An asylum seeker suffering with leukaemia was living at Napier Barracks even as coronavirus ripped through the population, it emerges.

Napier Barracks (PA Wire)

– Inspections by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) reveal “fundamental failures” over housing asylum seekers in military barracks, parts of which were “filthy”.

April:

– Asylum seekers are moved into Napier Barracks as the Home Office declares the coronavirus outbreak over.

– It emerges that the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Immigration Detention is launching an inquiry into the Home Office’s use of sites such as Napier Barracks to house asylum seekers.

June:

– Six asylum seekers previously housed at Napier Barracks won their legal challenge against the Government after a High Court judge found the accommodation failed to meet a minimum standard. On June 3, Mr Justice Linden ruled in favour of the men and found the Home Office acted unlawfully when deciding the former military camp was appropriate.

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