Napier Barracks updates
FHCLP took a clear position when the Home Office first announced that it was seeking to use the disused Napier Barracks accommodation for accommodating asylum seekers, along with similar provision in Wales.
FHCLP will be seeking support from our members at our next All Members’ Meeting for a clear decision to close Napier Barracks as soon as possible.
Evidence presented to parliament by a number of authoritative organisations makes clear that there is a serious detrimental impact upon residents’ mental health and well-being – further exacerbating the human rights issues which are being disregarded in this situation.
- The Home Office decided to use this as a less than ideal facility, due to systemic problems with their obligation to process asylum seeker claims.
- As human beings, we joined in expressions of welcome to the residents, to counter elements of xenophobic and some openly racist reactions
- We were proud to stand alongside hundreds of others, including local residents who were not afraid to show understanding and compassion.
- We noted the statutory obligations of the Home Office to support legal and human rights.
It is clear that the Home Office has failed to meet these obligations.
As a result, the local community will rightly be looking for leadership in setting this appalling situation right at the earliest opportunity .
The situation has from the beginning been a source of concern to many:
the Napier accommodation was extremely dilapidated, offered limited hygiene facilities and there was a very basic level of food and other provision offered for those forced into living there.
The management of the site has left a lot to be desired from the beginning, under a Home Office contract which provided a basic arrangement for security and cleaning on the one hand; limited provision on the other for the legally required support services being brokered through a charity, working under a degree of constraint imposed by the Home Office itself.
The latter served in practice as a filter which restricted opportunities for partnerships with other local organisations and community – even before pandemic conditions made this impracticable.
Our Policy Officer, Jane Darling, wrote an opinion piece at the turn of the year, setting out in more detail the abject failure of Home Office provision. You can read this piece by clicking here.
Now, the inevitable has happened: with poor quality accommodation and conditions, some of the residents have contracted Coronavirus.
Some have used this as an excuse to revive the “hostile environment” of blame attributed to the residents of Napier Barracks.
Very few, as yet, notably the local MP and Conservative Government representative, have recognised where the responsibility lies and pressed for action to remedy these defect.
Other community leaders are taking up the challenge of addressing this situation appropriately and we will be supporting them in the coming days and weeks.
It’s clear that the Home Office has failed in its moral duty, failed to deliver on assurances given to the local community and above all, failed in the duty to recognise the legal rights of asylum seekers in its blatant disregard for basic humanitarian needs.
Napier Barracks should now be closed.
A review of Home Office practice should follow as a matter of urgency.