Five arrested after fire at virus-hit barracks housing asylum seekers

Five men have been arrested after a suspected arson attack at a virus-hit military barracks in Kent, where hundreds of asylum seekers have been living.

A fire that broke out at Napier Barracks in Folkestone on Friday has sparked a police investigation and a row between the Home Secretary and refugee charities.

The barracks, which have been housing about 400 people, has been dogged by accusations of poor conditions and recently at least 120 residents reportedly tested positive for Covid-19.

Napier Barracks incident
Napier Barracks incident

On Friday heavy smoke and flames were seen pouring from the military-owned site amid blaring alarms.

The Home Office said windows had been smashed and a building had been set on fire.

However, police said that it would be "inaccurate" to refer to the incident as a riot and it was not being treated as such.

On Saturday Kent Police said five men had been arrested, including a 31-year-old on suspicion of assaulting a security guard.

Napier Barracks
Napier Barracks

The force said no serious injuries were reported, however a "significant amount of damage" was caused to one part of the site by the fire, which is believed to have been started deliberately.

Detective Chief Superintendent Andrew Pritchard, from Kent Police, said: "We are working in close partnership with the Home Office and Kent Fire and Rescue Service to help us establish the full circumstances and identify any individuals involved.

A statement on the shocking scenes at Napier barracks.

— Priti Patel (@pritipatel) January 29, 2021

"To help with our investigation I would encourage anyone with information, including video footage, to contact us as soon as possible."

Home Secretary Priti Patel said on Friday: "The damage and destruction at Napier Barracks is not only appalling but deeply offensive to the taxpayers of this country who are providing this accommodation while asylum claims are being processed."

Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said: "Priti Patel is playing with fire to make sweeping accusations against tens of people who have fled torture and sexual abuse and been warehoused by her in a Covid hotbed.

"Why can't she allow emergency services to do their job without political interference? Her divisive, inflammatory and knee-jerk response will only fan the flames of prejudice and undermine the rule of law."