For those of you who have contacted me regarding the conditions for asylum seekers at the Napier Barracks please see my response below.
I have long been concerned by the Government’s treatment of asylum seekers.
During this pandemic, I know many are being held in unsafe conditions without the possibility for effective self-isolation and I add my voice to those campaigners including the Red Cross calling on the Government to remove asylum seekers from these unsafe conditions immediately.
For months, charities, campaigners and migrants have been trying to raise the alarm regarding the conditions inside camps like Napier Barracks in Kent, one of several former military sites that were repurposed last year by the Home Office as emergency accommodation for asylum seekers. Complaints have highlighted over-crowded conditions and have alleged access to legal advice and healthcare is delayed or obstructed. Further to this, now one in four residents have tested positive for covid-19, and the conditions make any form of self-isolation impossible.
The Government’s response to the widespread criticism from campaigners, MPs, religious leaders and human rights groups regarding this has been, in my view, totally inadequate with only small changes made to the arrangements at Napier and not enough done to protect the people housed there. I support calls for the barracks to be closed, and for the people there to be moved to safe, decent accommodation immediately.
People forced by wars and persecution to flee their homes frequently embark on dangerous journeys to seek a place of safety for themselves and their families. It is my strong belief that they should find safety and support here, and not be exposed to more danger and hardship. Many of the actions that cause people to flee their home countries can be traced back to wars and colonialism that established and entrenched global exploitation and inequality. Given the role successive UK Governments have played in supporting harmful military interventions abroad, our Government, in my view, has a particular responsibility to provide a safe haven for people seeking asylum.
I was elected on a manifesto that criticised the Government’s record on this issue, saying that “this Government has failed its international legal obligations to refugees and to allow people to exercise their rights to seek asylum” and committed to introducing safe and legal routes for asylum seekers, and to treating all migrants humanely”. I stand by those commitments.