The Napier Barracks: moving out and shutting down

The Napier Barracks, the accommodation in Kent that currently houses men seeking asylum, now houses just 63 men. This is great progress. The Home Office has been taken to High Court over the dire conditions and has dropped Yarl’s Wood removal centre as another accommodation provision.

The government has actively targeted and mistreated asylum seekers for too long. As noted by this mini-series, evidence mounts every single day that the Napier Barracks is a violation of human rights. People seeking asylum housed in the Napier Barracks are now risking their lives to leave the UK after being treated so inhumanely.

5th February 2021: Asylum seekers are risking their lives to leave the UK.

Men seeking asylum have been treated so poorly in the barracks that some are risking their lives to leave the UK. After a life-threatening journey here, they will be risking their lives again because of the inhumane conditions they were left with in the UK.

A 22-year-old man told the Independent, ‘the journey back is totally dangerous. There are just centimetres between the lorry and the ground. I could lose my arm, leg or my life. But in the UK, I am losing my dignity.’ He left his home country due to compulsory recruitment campaigns by the Kurdish army. After leaving his home country to save his life, and then risking his life to arrive in the UK, the man is now forced to risk his life again due to the UK’s failure to treat people adequately.

To find somewhere else to stay, many of the people seeking asylum will be holding onto the bottom of lorries to leave the UK.

The Home Office seems to be clinging to the disproved notion that the movement of people can be turned off like a tap. Therefore, by giving them the most inhumane conditions, people seeking asylum will be deterred. Perhaps housing men in the Napier Barracks means this has worked. Perhaps Priti Patel is getting what she wants – people are leaving. But the human cost is much greater. The men in the Napier Barracks have escaped such horrifying conditions. Treating them so poorly in a country that is supposed to be safe – to the extent that they leave the UK – will be so detrimental to their mental health, sense of belonging, and the chance of them living. The Home Office should be ashamed.

The UK can be a welcoming nation but it is dramatically failing on its potential. The Home Office has made the Napier Barracks so inhospitable that the accommodation has been accused multiple times of abusing human rights laws.

10th February 2021: Home Office drops plan to house 200 asylum seekers in accommodation at Yarl’s Wood.

A fantastic mark of the power of the people. The people who are raising awareness and peacefully protesting against the Napier Barracks cast a light on the UK’s humanity. After all, it is not the country, but the people in a country that makes it good.

The Home Office has dropped their plans to house 200 asylum seekers in accommodation at Yarl’s Wood.

While it is concerning that the Home Office probably would’ve gone ahead with this if Napier Barracks hadn’t come under so much criticism, the takeaway result is that another appalling accommodation block will not be used.

The Home Office claimed that Yarl’s Wood accommodation had been dropped because they ‘no longer needed the additional capacity.’ It is more likely that the pressure from campaigners, as well as the Napier Barrack mens’ legal claims, were the catalyst for dropping Yarl’s Wood.

However, the Home Office’s excuse brings the question – what happened to the ‘plague’ of people arriving on the ‘taxpayers’ money’ which forms part of another of the government’s classic scapegoating techniques?

Chris Philp explained that ‘work is underway to reduce the cost of the asylum system, which is under significant pressure.’ The solution is clear: the government should terminate the contract with Clearsprings Ready Homes – this would resolve the high ‘cost of the asylum system.’

So many people have joined together to close the accommodation. It is so reassuring and empowering that the government’s behaviour does not reflect the country’s feelings. The government is instead acting for a small vocal minority – most people strongly disagree with the accommodation.

12th February 2021: Napier Barracks deemed ‘not acceptable standard for accommodation’ back in 2014.

Blatantly contradicting the Home Office’s claims, it is revealed that the barracks ‘were never intended for long term use’ – and that ‘under the proposals, these buildings are to be removed.’ So much for the detrimental nationalist ‘good enough for our armed forces’ rhetoric that Patel and Philp have rehashed so many times.

Making a show of treating human beings poorly is nothing to be proud of. It is absurd that the Home Office wants to portray this in a shameful effort to satisfy the prejudiced few.

People seeking asylum have been politicised, to gain approval from a minority that does not reflect the nation’s sentiments.

16th February 2021: High Court Hearing about the state of Napier Barracks.

The conditions of the Napier Barracks were taken to the High Court after six of the men seeking asylum brought the ‘inhumane conditions’ to court.

It is so alarming that the Home Office has continually lied about how they have ‘worked extremely closely with Public Health England.’ It was revealed, in fact, that on 7th September, Public Health England advised the Home Office that dormitories were not suitable accommodation during a pandemic.

When you compare the fact that the government told the country to mix in small numbers, it is almost laughable that the Home Office then placed men in dormitories of 14 people each.

Except it’s not laughable because it’s not funny. It’s not even scornfully funny. It’s simply tragic. That a government that prides itself on its British values is happy to abandon a group of people who came to the UK for sanctuary.

It’s as if the Home Office knew they were wrong in ‘accommodating’ asylum seekers in Napier: after legal challenges were mounted, the barracks were emptied of around four-fifths of its occupants. As of Tuesday’s court hearing, there were 63 people left in the barracks. There were 400 men in the Napier Barracks the week before.

A two-day judicial review of the barrack accommodation will begin on 13th April. Many people very much hope that this will bring the necessary and long-awaited improvements to the Home Office’s treatment of people seeking asylum.

This has been the most positive week for the closure of the Napier Barracks – it seems that it is slowly being shut down due to the legal claims mounted by the men seeking asylum, as well as the power of public pressure.

 

 

Image: srqpix on Flickr.

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