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‘Profound harm’ inflicted on asylum-seekers held in ex-military barracks, report warns

THE Home Office’s use of ex-military barracks to house asylum-seekers has inflicted “profound harm” on vulnerable people and must end, a study by MPs and peers urged today. 

The Report of the Inquiry into Quasi-Detention also warns against government plans to expand the use of sites like Napier Barracks in Kent, which is still being used to house hundreds of asylum-seekers. 

It refers to Napier as a “quasi-detention centre” due to the use of surveillance, security measures and dorm accommodation. 

Asylum-seekers told the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on immigration detention that they had been subjected to “appalling treatment and conditions” when held at Napier and another site, Penally Camp, which has since closed.

This left them feeling “dehumanised, exhausted and suffering a profound deterioration in their mental health, in some cases to the point of attempting suicide,” the APPG report said. 

One asylum-seeker told the group: “When I arrived, the fear completely overwhelmed me. The design of the camp was oppressive, the high fences, the sheer numbers of people, the
security who … looked like they were from the military. 

“It reminded me of the military camps in [my home country].”

Immigration Detention APPG chairwoman Alison Thewliss said the report highlights the “myriad ways in which the Home Office is comprehensively failing some of the most vulnerable people in society.

“Those forced to stay in quasi-detention accommodation have included children, people who have survived torture or trafficking, and other at-risk groups.

“Our worst fears have been confirmed that this type of accommodation is not only inappropriate, but downright harmful.”

The APPG report comes after inspectors found the sites to be “impoverished, run-down and unsuitable for long-term accommodation” and a damning High Court ruling found that the decision to open the sites was unlawful. 

Despite this, the government decided in August to extend the use of Napier Barracks until 2025. The High Court granted permission  this week for a judicial review to challenge the decision. 

The Home Office has also confirmed that Napier Barracks may act as a “pilot” for new asylum accommodation centres proposed in the Nationality and Borders Bill. 

“The profound harm inflicted on people at Napier, Penally, Tinsley House IRC and other similar sites is clear from the evidence collected,” the report warns. “It cannot be allowed to continue, let alone to be expanded.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Residents are not detained at Napier, they are provided with three meals a day and have their basic needs catered for.”

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