Napier Barracks Update

Napier Barracks Update

Notes taken at the Q&A Session held by Folkestone and Hythe District Council on Thursday 27 May 2021 concerning continuing use of Napier Barracks as a facility for Asylum Seekers.

The meeting was attended by representatives from the council, Public Health, Chief Inspector of Police for Kent, Steve Lakey from Clearsprings Ready Homes, Sean Palmer from the Home Office and Damian Collins MP.

The session dealt with a number of composite questions formed from a much greater number of questions sent in by the public. Members of the public could not take part in the session.

Allison Duggan, from Public Health outlined the role that the County Council have in the oversight of the running of Napier Barracks; to challenge on health concerns; to ensure that the relevant regulations from the Care Act, with regard to vulnerable adults, are followed; to monitor Covid-19 precautions and safety measures: to investigate how the fire, earlier this year, has affected the facility and the safeguards in place.

She reported that there are currently no Covid concerns at present; that all unaccompanied children arriving here to seek asylum are being looked after within the county; and that Public Health guidelines are being followed.

Sean Palmer from the Home Office said that the aim is to give asylum seekers in Napier Barracks “the best possible time while they stay at Napier”.

In answer to a question on length of stay, he stated that no consideration is currently being given to extending the length of stay beyond 90 days. 

There are currently 330 men at the barracks. Care has been taken to allocate people who are deemed suitable. 

He said that site operation has improved and that they were keeping up to date with guidance and best practice. Dormitory accommodation is still in place, but steps have been taken to make it safe.

He explained that the site in Wales had been closed since permission from the MOD to use the site has run out.

On the question of site security, it was mentioned that some members of the public had complained about litter around the area of the site. A Public Space Protection Order is in place, and the site is patrolled regularly to ensure that the area is kept safe and clean.

Concern about recent issues requiring emergency vehicles being able to access the site have been raised.

Steve Lakey from Clearsprings, who are responsible for the day-to-day management of the site, stated that meetings on site with management and the residents are taking place regularly.

The Chief Inspector of Police raised the concern about a recently advertised coach trip to the barracks to coincide with a potential demonstration there. Officers attended but no enforcement action was necessary. 

Police presence in the Cheriton area has been increased a result of listening to the concerns of the public and the residents who were visited at the site.

There has been very little change to the crime rate in the area since the occupation of the barracks began, but there have been some incidents of hate crime regarding the presence of asylum seekers at the barracks.

On Covid, lessons have been learned from the recent outbreak at the barracks in January/February. Closer working relationships with the agencies involved with the Barracks; better social distancing, staggered meal-times, self-isolation more possible and regular testing.

A better Covid outbreak plan has been put in place.

Health and well-being and mental health measures have been strengthened. There is an on-site nurse who can take referrals from residents and refer on if necessary to local health facilities.

All staff are trained in safe-guarding and there is a joined-up approach to dealing with residents problems.

Food has improved. There is a chef on site; multi-cultural menus are available. All menus and meats are assessed to ensure they meet statutory requirements.

The presence of asbestos in the building is being monitored.

Integration with the local community is ongoing and Migrant Help are organising events. There have been lots of offers from local groups and some volunteers visit regularly to meet residents. Donations of help and support are being made and many have reported that there is a positive connection with local people.

Allison Duggan stated that all asylum seekers are screened before admission to Napier Barracks for physical and mental health problems. The provision of dental care is being looked at.

All migrants are tested for Covid on arrival in the UK and once at Napier, and there are twice weekly Lateral Flow Tests.

Conclusion:

It sounds as though matters have improved at the barracks since the re-opening  earlier this year, with many of the issues and concerns previously raised being addressed by the various agencies.

It is difficult to know how long residents will be held there and whether an inspection would find that the building is  now “fit for purpose”.

 Some of the residents must be coming close to the end of a 90 day stay.

It is encouraging that there is now more, good contact between the residents and the local community.

There was little information in the session about the legal status, the asylum application and appeals process and how easy it is for residents to have face to face contact with their legal representative.

Jane Darling : Policy Officer : 2 June 2021.

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