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.

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Napier Barracks used for migrants
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Napier Barracks used for migrants
Welcome To Folkestone About 400 local residents and community groups including Kent Refugee Action Network and Samphire came together outside Napier Barracks to show the people staying there that they are welcome to the town on the 17th of October 2020 in Folkestone, United Kingdom. In September 2020 Napier Barracks a former military camp was transformed into an assessment and dispersal facility for 400 asylum seekers by the Home Office. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In Pictures via Getty Images)
Welcome To Folkestone About 400 local residents and community groups including Kent Refugee Action Network and Samphire came together outside Napier Barracks to show the people staying there that they are welcome to the town on the 17th of October 2020 in Folkestone, United Kingdom. In September 2020 Napier Barracks a former military camp was transformed into an assessment and dispersal facility for 400 asylum seekers by the Home Office. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In Pictures via Getty Images)
Welcome To Folkestone About 400 local residents and community groups including Kent Refugee Action Network and Samphire came together outside Napier Barracks to show the people staying there that they are welcome to the town on the 17th of October 2020 in Folkestone, United Kingdom. In September 2020 Napier Barracks a former military camp was transformed into an assessment and dispersal facility for 400 asylum seekers by the Home Office. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In Pictures via Getty Images)
Welcome To Folkestone About 400 local residents and community groups including Kent Refugee Action Network and Samphire came together outside Napier Barracks to show the people staying there that they are welcome to the town on the 17th of October 2020 in Folkestone, United Kingdom. In September 2020 Napier Barracks a former military camp was transformed into an assessment and dispersal facility for 400 asylum seekers by the Home Office. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In Pictures via Getty Images)
Welcome To Folkestone About 400 local residents and community groups including Kent Refugee Action Network and Samphire came together outside Napier Barracks to show the people staying there that they are welcome to the town on the 17th of October 2020 in Folkestone, United Kingdom. In September 2020 Napier Barracks a former military camp was transformed into an assessment and dispersal facility for 400 asylum seekers by the Home Office. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In Pictures via Getty Images)
Welcome To Folkestone About 400 local residents and community groups including Kent Refugee Action Network and Samphire came together outside Napier Barracks to show the people staying there that they are welcome to the town on the 17th of October 2020 in Folkestone, United Kingdom. In September 2020 Napier Barracks a former military camp was transformed into an assessment and dispersal facility for 400 asylum seekers by the Home Office. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In Pictures via Getty Images)
A small number of Patriots came to disturb the Welcome To Folkestone event from local residents and community groups including Kent Refugee Action Network and Samphire came together outside Napier Barracks to show the people staying there that they are welcome to the town on the 17th of October 2020 in Folkestone, United Kingdom. In September 2020 Napier Barracks a former military camp was transformed into an assessment and dispersal facility for 400 asylum seekers by the Home Office. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In Pictures via Getty Images)
Refugees inside the barracks came out into the yard to enjoy the locals Welcome To Folkestone event from local residents and community groups including Kent Refugee Action Network and Samphire came together outside Napier Barracks to show the people staying there that they are welcome to the town on the 17th of October 2020 in Folkestone, United Kingdom. In September 2020 Napier Barracks a former military camp was transformed into an assessment and dispersal facility for 400 asylum seekers by the Home Office. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In Pictures via Getty Images)
A group of men, thought to be migrants, sit outside in the sunshine after arriving yesterday night at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent. Migrants will be housed in the military barracks from this week while their asylum claims are processed. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
People thought to be migrants arrive at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, where migrants who have crossed the Channel in small boats are being housed in the military barracks from this week, while their asylum claims are processed. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
Fencing and security preparations take place at Napier Barracks to welcome Asylum seekers at the new assessment and dispersal facility for asylum seekers on 21st September 2020 in Folkestone, Kent, Untied Kingdom. Napier barracks was recently taken over by the UK home office and is part of Shorncliffe military base. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In Pictures via Getty Images)
Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, where migrants who have crossed the Channel in small boats are being housed in the military barracks from this week, while their asylum claims are processed. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
Police officers are escorted around Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, where migrants who have crossed the Channel in small boats are expected to be housed in the military barracks from this week, while their asylum claims are processed. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
Napier Barracks in Folkestone Kent, recently taken over by the UK home office to be turned into an assessment and dispersal facility for asylum seekers on the 15th of September 2020 in Folkestone, United Kingdom. Napier barracks was part of Shorncliffe military base, the MOD have sold off large parts of land in recent years for housing development. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In pictures via Getty Images)
Napier Barracks in Folkestone Kent, recently taken over by the UK home office to be turned into an assessment and dispersal facility for asylum seekers on the 15th of September 2020 in Folkestone, United Kingdom. Napier barracks was part of Shorncliffe military base, the MOD have sold off large parts of land in recent years for housing development. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In pictures via Getty Images)
FOLKESTONE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 17: A general view of Napier Army Barracks on September 17, 2020 in Folkestone, England. The Home Office is reportedly converting the decommissioned Napier Army Barracks in Folkestone to an assessment centre for asylum seekers arriving across the Channel. This summer has seen an increase in people making the journey in small crafts from France seeking asylum in U.K. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Napier Barracks in Folkestone Kent, recently taken over by the UK home office to be turned into an assessment and dispersal facility for asylum seekers on the 15th of September 2020 in Folkestone, United Kingdom. Napier barracks was part of Shorncliffe military base, the MOD have sold off large parts of land in recent years for housing development. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In pictures via Getty Images)
Napier Barracks in Folkestone Kent, recently taken over by the UK home office to be turned into an assessment and dispersal facility for asylum seekers on the 15th of September 2020 in Folkestone, United Kingdom. Napier barracks was part of Shorncliffe military base, the MOD have sold off large parts of land in recent years for housing development. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In pictures via Getty Images)
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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.

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