Migrants who cross Channel to be housed in military barracks

15 September 2020, 16:11

Napier Barracks in Folkestone will be used to house migrants who cross the Channel
Napier Barracks in Folkestone will be used to house migrants who cross the Channel. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Migrants who cross the English Channel in small dinghies are to be housed in a military barracks in Kent while their asylum claims are processed.

Roughly 400 people, including families, will be given temporary accommodation at Napier Barracks in Folkestone from next week.

The Home Office's decision has attracted criticism from within the Conservative Party, with local MP Damian Collins, of Folkestone and Hythe, accusing the department of "exceptionally poor communication".

He said he "cannot support" the plans and called on the ministry to find "more suitable" accommodation for the migrants - including those who cross the Channel in small boats.

The Home Office is also believed to be considering a barracks in Pembrokeshire, south-west Wales.

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It comes after at least 168 people made the perilous crossing into the UK aboard 12 dinghies on Monday, with more refugees landing on a beach in Kent on Tuesday.

In a joint letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel, Mr Collins, along with the Conservative leader of Folkestone and Hythe District Council and the chairman of Sandgate Parish Council, demanded she reverse the decision.

They said: "We have great concerns about the impact this large open camp will have on the welfare of the local residential community and also those people in the asylum system who will be placed at the barracks itself."

In a statement, Folkestone and Hythe District Council cited a "lack of consultation on this matter and the exceptionally poor communication with us".

They added: "We are quite sure that members of the community will have many questions, and we are seeking clarification as a matter of urgency."

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In response, a UK Government spokesman said: "During these unprecedented times, the government is working with a range of partners and across departments to secure further accommodation and the MoD (Ministry of Defence) has offered use of some of its sites.

"When using contingency accommodation we work closely with organisations, including local authorities and law enforcement, throughout the process to ensure value for money and that vulnerable asylum seekers, who would otherwise be destitute, have suitable accommodation while their claims are processed."

The two sites are part of the MoD training estate, the Press Association news agency understands.

Training at the bases will be relocated to alternative sites or rescheduled to ensure no military personnel are present if and when they are used by the Home Office.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, immigration minister Chris Philp said 14 people who had crossed the Channel to Britain had been deported.

Speaking on Twitter, he said they were removed to European countries following "last minute vexatious legal claims".

Other migrants, including women and children too young to walk, were brought into the port of Dover by Border Force staff on Tuesday.

Of the 168 people who made the crossing on Monday, a group of 10 were pictured landing on Kingsdown beach in Kent and making off away from the shoreline.