This is the last article you can read this month
You can read more article this month
You can read more articles this month
Sorry your limit is up for this month
by Bethany Rielly
THE Home Office insisted today that its decision to dump asylum-seekers in squalid and overcrowded army barracks during the pandemic was “reasonable” despite acknowledging higher risks of infection.
Six asylum-seekers have brought a legal challenge against the department, arguing that its decision to house them in Napier Barracks in Kent was unlawful.
The claimants say that they were put at “exceptionally high risk” of catching Covid-19 at the site, where crowded and communal sleeping and eating arrangements resulted in a huge outbreak earlier this year.
Lisa Giovannetti QC, representing the Home Office, told the High Court today that the department “has always accepted and acknowledged that the transmission risk is higher in congregate settings of this sort.”
But she said that the Home Office had taken steps to ensure that no person specifically vulnerable to severe illness or death from Covid-19 was placed in the barracks.
“The secretary of state’s position is that these were being sifted out to be relatively young people in good health.
“It’s not just how high the risk of an outbreak is but how significant is the impact likely to be on numbers … the profile of individuals being placed in this accommodation.”
Ms Giovannetti reasoned that “no-one fell seriously ill or was hospitalised” during the outbreak, adding that in the context of accommodation shortages, the decision to use the site was “reasonable and rational.”
In January, half of the 400 men staying at Napier Barracks contracted Covid-19 following months of warnings about unsafe conditions.
During the outbreak, residents were forbidden to leave the site and said that they felt “abandoned.” It was later reported that a leukaemia sufferer was living in the barracks at this time.
Rubbing further salt into the wound, Ms Giovannetti told the court that there were “advantages” to the squalid site, including the potential for recreational activities and benefits to communal living.
The Morning Star understands that there are no recreational activities in the camp.
On Wednesday the court heard how asylum-seekers at the barracks had witnessed “shocking suicide attempts” and were left without mental health support.
Previously undisclosed documents also revealed that the Home Office had received warnings of “serious” fire risk at the site two months before a blaze broke out.
The two-day trial concluded this afternoon. A judgement is expected in May.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by joining the 501 club.
Just £5 a month gives you the opportunity to win one of 17 prizes, from £25 to the £501 jackpot.
By becoming a 501 Club member you are helping the Morning Star cover its printing, distribution and staff costs — help keep our paper thriving by joining!
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by become a member of the People’s Printing Press Society.
The Morning Star is a readers’ co-operative, which means you can become an owner of the paper too by buying shares in the society.
Shares are £1 each — though unlike capitalist firms, each shareholder has an equal say. Money from shares contributes directly to keep our paper thriving.
Some union branches have taken out shares of over £500 and individuals over £100.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by donating to the Fighting Fund.
The Morning Star is unique, as a lone socialist voice in a sea of corporate media. We offer a platform for those who would otherwise never be listened to, coverage of stories that would otherwise be buried.
The rich don’t like us, and they don’t advertise with us, so we rely on you, our readers and friends. With a regular donation to our monthly Fighting Fund, we can continue to thumb our noses at the fat cats and tell truth to power.
Donate today and make a regular contribution.