Two asylum seekers go AWOL every week from UK’s first migrant camp that was set up at a Kent Army barracks during height of Channel crisis
- Napier Barracks in Kent was turned into an ‘assessment and dispersal facility’
- It has now been revealed two migrants go AWOL from the migrant camp weekly
- Eight arrivals were recorded as absent from the camp between September 22 and October 20
Two migrants are escaping the UK’s first migrant camp at an army barracks in Kent every week, it has been revealed.
Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent was turned into an ‘assessment and dispersal facility’ for migrants, with 400 arriving in September at the height of the migrant crisis, which has seen thousands cross the Channel and arrive in Britain this year.
September saw the most arrivals in the UK – with nearly 2000 migrants landing, more than all of 2019.
Now, it has been revealed that eight arrivals were recorded as absent from the camp between September 22 and October 20.
Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent was turned into an ‘assessment and dispersal facility’ for migrants – the first migrant camp in the UK
Damian Collins, the MP Folkestone and Hythe, wrote to the Home Office asking how it could have happened.
He told The Telegraph: ‘I’m extremely concerned that since September eight asylum seekers have disappeared from the barracks, their current location unknown and their applications presumably suspended.
‘The number of asylum seekers that have already left the camp raises serious questions about the security of the Napier Barracks facility.
‘I’ve written to the Home Office to request an urgent clarification of what has gone wrong.’
The barracks was one of two sites set up to ensure migrants are socially distanced during the coronavirus pandemic.
Bridget Chapman, learning and project coordinator at Kent Refugee Action Network, said the barracks camp is an inappropriate facility in light of its current abscontion rate.
She said: ‘Most people arriving have strong asylum claims and want those to be processed. It would have to be extremely bad for them to remove themselves from that process, so it is extremely concerning.
A Home Office spokesperson told the MailOnline: ‘We are fixing our broken asylum system to make it firm and fair. We will seek to stop abuse of the system while ensuring it is compassionate towards those who need our help.
‘We hand details of anyone who absconds to the police and our specialist tracing team, who do everything they can to track these individuals down and, once found, their claim may be rejected.’
A view of Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, where migrants who have crossed the Channel in small boats are housed
A row of beds at the former disused barracks in Folkestone, Kent, that houses asylum seekers
A source suggested that, if a person absconds before a decision is made, or if they fail to comply with our processes, their asylum claim can be withdrawn.
The camp hit the news in November after migrants staying there protested against conditions.
Crowds shouted ‘we want freedom’ as they shoved against a fence on the site.
Footage recorded by an onlooker showed the group hit and pull at the barrier while officers watch from the other side.
The camp has proved controversial since being set up.
Council leader David Monk initially expressed ‘great concerns’ in a co-signed letter with local MP Damian Collins and Sandgate Parish Council leader Cllr Tim Prater.
They asked Home Secretary Priti Patel to halt the plans after blasting ‘exceptionally poor communication,’ claiming to have been given ‘very little notice of this decision and it’s one we cannot support’.
The letter read: ‘We have great concerns about the impact this large open camp will have on the welfare of the local residential community and also those people in the asylum system who will be placed in the barracks itself.’
But Mr Monk later backtracked and said: ‘It was never a question of this council being against the principle of asylum seekers living in our community.
‘Our concern was that as we had not been consulted we had no way of being able to allay the fears and address the questions raised by our residents.’
Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts Chris Philp MP offered reassurances in a written reply on Friday about the temporary accommodation expected to be in place for 12 months.
He said the Government is making use of Section 9 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to provide safe accommodation for people who have claimed asylum who would otherwise be destitute, whilst the merits of their asylum claims are being considered.
Covid-19 has a ‘major impact’ on the asylum support system, according to Mr Philp, and Napier Barracks was identified among a range of options to ease the pressure.
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