Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
Thank you contacting me about your concerns regarding the conditions facing asylum seekers who have been placed in barracks by the Home Office.
I understand that Napier barracks in Kent and Penally barracks in Pembrokeshire have been used to house around 650 asylum seekers in recent months. In the Napier barracks, where 400 asylum seekers are believed to have been housed, there has been an outbreak of COVID-19 amongst 120 people.
According to the asylum seekers living inside these barracks, social distancing is virtually impossible, with one asylum seeker describing their living conditions as “unbearable”. There have also been worrying reports of hunger strikes and suicide attempts, as well as a fire which broke out at the Napier barracks on 29 January, leaving asylum seekers without electricity, heating and drinking water.
The people who attempt to make the dangerous and potentially fatal journey across the Channel to reach the UK do so because they feel that they have been left with no other option. Many asylum seekers have escaped war, poverty and persecution in their countries of origin. Before reaching our shores, they will have faced unimaginable hardships – and now they have been met with a lack of compassion by the UK government.
In November, it was revealed that volunteers at the barracks had been asked to sign confidentiality agreements underpinned by the Official Secrets Act before entering the site. At the time, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds said:
“These concerning revelations raise serious questions about what the Home Office have to hide. There should be proper processes for transparency and accountability in place throughout the immigration system.”
Holly Lynch, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Immigration, has written multiple letters to the Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts regarding the conditions at the Napier barracks. She has raised with the Minister many of your concerns and you can read her most recent letter by clicking on the following link: https://twitter.com/HollyLynch5/status/1353647772193468417
The conditions in these barracks are unacceptable. Please be assured that Labour will continue to press the government on this issue.
Thank you again for contacting me about this important subject. If you have any further points you would like to raise with me, please do not hesitate to get back in touch.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury