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by Bethany Rielly
A GROUP of asylum-seekers at an ex-army camp in Kent have vowed to sleep outside in sub-zero temperatures until the Home Office moves them to more suitable accommodation.
Five residents launched the desperate action on Friday in protest against long delays in processing their asylum claims and the squalid conditions at Napier Barracks, Folkestone.
It came as the site, which has been used as a temporary facility to hold up to 400 men since September, was hit by another apparent suicide attempt.
Campaigners told the Morning Star that the man was taken to hospital where he received medical treatment. The reports have not yet been confirmed.
It would mean that at least three people have attempted to take their own lives at the camp, where men are kept behind barbed-wire fences in shared rooms holding around 15 people each.
Medical staff, human rights groups, lawyers and campaigners have made repeated calls for the ex-military site to close, citing major concerns for asylum-seekers’ physical and mental well-being.
A Care4Calais volunteer, who preferred not to be named, told the Star that residents at the camp were “exhausted” and have been “worn down” by months of waiting.
She said the five, some of whom have been there since September, have resorted to sleeping out in the cold because they “they feel it’s the only way to have their voices heard.”
“Certainly, individuals that I have been in contact with before who had been quite hopeful and positive, that seems to have shifted in recent weeks,” said the volunteer, who helps residents in the camp to find legal representation for their asylum claims.
“For me, the most shocking and sad thing is these are the most resilient people, they’ve been through so much in their past, and it’s here in Britain that they are losing hope.”
The action is the latest in a series of peaceful protests from residents demanding that they be housed in humane accommodation.
Refugee Action chief executive Stephen Hale urged the Home Office to “start acting with compassion” and move the asylum-seekers to houses in the community.
“Forcing traumatised people to live in squalid conditions behind barbed wire and high fences is inhuman,” he said.
“These barracks are causing untold misery on people who have fled war and persecution and must be shut down immediately.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “There is no reason to sleep outside as we, at the taxpayers’ expense, provides those at Napier Barracks with safe, warm, Covid-compliant accommodation.
“The Government takes the wellbeing of asylum seekers extremely seriously and is fulfilling its statutory obligation to support them, including with health support.
“We are fixing our broken asylum system to make it firm and fair.
“Later this year we will be bringing forward legislation which will stop abuse of the system while ensuring it is compassionate towards those who need our help, welcoming people through safe and legal routes.”
When asked about the alleged suicide attempt at the barracks, the Home Office said it does not routinely comment on individual cases.
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