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A fire has broken out at a former military barracks being used to house asylum seekers in Kent.
Images posted online show thick smoke billowing from one of the blocks at Napier Barracks near Folkestone. The facility has the capacity to hold 400 men but in recent days some have been transferred to hotels after a Covid-19 outbreak.
At least 120 men at the barracks have tested positive, prompting panic among residents, some of whom took to sleeping outside in sub-zero temperatures for fear of infection.
There are 16 blocks in the camp, most of which hold up to 28 men. The blocks have two toilets and showers and the men eat together in a communal canteen.
One asylum seeker at the site said: “Some of us are really scared. The roof is on fire and parts of it fell down. The firefighters arrived at the camp. They turned off all the electricity here and some of us are really frightened. Everything is out of control. People are watching the block burning.
“The security guards, the staff and the camp managers escaped. Now we are all in the camp without the staff, without anyone else.”
On Friday the men received communications from Clearsprings, the private contractor that runs the site on behalf of the Home Office, informing them they would be moved to other blocks to allow “further deep cleaning” and to help control the spread of Covid-19.
The correspondence said there were still men on the site with Covid-19 and they must continue to stay there. Until the recent outbreak, the men had been able to come and go from the barracks.
The men were told that once moved to a new block they would be in a new “bubble” and must not mix with people outside their designated bubble.
The outbreak followed repeated warnings from humanitarian organisations and healthcare professionals over significant risks posed by Covid-19 at the site, which has been dogged by allegations of overcrowding and poor conditions.
Several protests have taken place over the conditions and lack of communication from authorities over the length of the men’s stay. Many claim they were told they would be there for no more than a month and have now been there for four months.
Kent fire and rescue service has been contacted for comment.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Fire breaks out at former army barracks housing asylum seekers in Kent | Kent