Asylum seekers shout ‘freedom’ during protest outside Army barracks


Asylum seekers living at a controversial military barracks have gone on hunger strike and are sleeping outdoors in protest at conditions inside.

Many gathered outside the barbed wire-topped fence on Tuesday chanting "freedom!" and waving banners.

There have been reports of suicide attempts within the Ministry of Defence-owned Napier Barracks, where asylum seekers have been living for months.

Several dozen people stood outside the gates of the military facility in Folkestone, Kent, at around midday on Tuesday to demonstrate over conditions inside and social distancing concerns.

A number of police officers were also present outside the entrance as the protest went on.

On Monday night many Napier residents slept outside in the cold to raise awareness of their concerns.

Conditions inside have been criticised by charities and likened to the refugee camps in Calais that many will have left behind when they crossed to the UK.

There have been reports of suicide attempts at the barracks during the time it has been used by the Home Office.

Migrant charity Care4Calais said conditions within are "cramped and unsafe".

Charity founder Clare Moseley said: "The conditions they are being kept in are cramped, stressful and dangerous.

"Asylum seekers have fled terrifying dangers, wars and persecution, they need support and protection, instead our Government is treating them with cruelty."

Napier Barracks is one of two Ministry of Defence sites being used to house asylum seekers.

The sites were loaned to the Home Office last year as the department struggled to house the thousands of people who crossed the English Channel in small boats during 2020.

Napier Barracks was designated to house about 400 asylum seekers – more than any other Home Office "initial accommodation site".

Controversy over the use of a military facility to house vulnerable people has persisted and the Home Office has also faced accusations that it is "trying to gag" volunteers visiting the site using the Official Secrets Act.