Europe

Asylum seekers win High Court case against Home Office over being kept in barracks ‘reminiscent of detention centre’

Six asylum seekers who brought a legal challenge against “appalling” conditions at a disused army barracks have won their High Court action against the Home Office.

The group housed at Napier Barracks in Kent had claimed the facilities were “inhumane” and “unsafe”.

The court found the accommodation was “inadequate” for asylum seekers, that the Home Office’s process for selecting people to be accommodated at the barracks was “flawed and unlawful”, and that residents there were unlawfully detained under “purported COVID rules”.

The claim was brought by the group who stayed at the barracks in Folkestone between September 2020 and February 2021.

In his judgment Mr Justice Linden said all of them were “vulnerable victims of trafficking and/or torture, who experienced a deterioration in their mental health as a result of their accommodation at Napier Barracks”.

They were transferred to alternative accommodation after legal proceedings were initiated.

Majid, a young Iranian asylum seeker, is now living in hotel accommodation in London, but spent more than four months at the barracks.

He told Sky News he still suffered bouts of depression because of his time at Napier.

During a two-day hearing in April, the men’s lawyers said accommodating asylum seekers at the “squalid” barracks was a breach of their human rights and could amount to false imprisonment.

And on Thursday, Mr Justice Linden ruled in their favour and found the Home Office acted unlawfully when deciding the former military camp was appropriate.

He said: “Whether on the basis of the issues of COVID or fire safety taken in isolation, or looking at the cumulative effect of the decision making about, and the conditions in, the barracks, I do not accept the accommodation there ensured a standard of living which was adequate for the health of the claimants.

“Insofar as the defendant considered that the accommodation was adequate for their needs, that view was irrational.”

The High Court previously heard the government had been warned months before a COVID outbreak at the barracks that Napier was “not suitable” for use during a pandemic.

The concerns raised by Public Health England centred on the dormitory-style accommodation, which it said made social distancing difficult.

One of the PHE inspectors who was called in at Napier – and also Penally Camp in Wales – ruled they were both “utterly unacceptable” and represented “serious failings on the part of the Home Office“.

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