With this weekend marking the partial ending of a much-criticised and legally-challenged project to hold asylum seekers in disused army camps in the UK, the Home Office said nothing more about the closure of one of these sites on Sunday.
From 21 March, people seeking asylum will no longer stay at a long-disused and now notorious ex-army training camp in Penally, Wales, with the camp being returned to the Ministry of Defence.
The Home Office had planned to use it for another six months after taking over the facilities last September, but a damning inspection of the facility put an end to the project.
An inspection by the prisons and immigration watchdogs who described it as ‘impoverished, run-down and unsuitable for long-term accommodation.’
The decision to end its use for housing asylum seekers was loudly cheered by human rights groups and charities. It followed heavy criticism over the inadequate living conditions within the site and an inspection by the prisons and immigration watchdogs who described it as ‘impoverished, run-down and unsuitable for long-term accommodation.’
Penally held two hundred asylum seekers sleeping six to a room but was generally less criticised than the Home Office’s other camp at Napier Barracks in Kent which had been housing 400 people at 28 people to a room.
Following a long-feared mass outbreak of Covid-19, many residents were eventually moved to alternative accommodation. The site also garnered heavy media attention following protests and a fire.
Nonetheless there are still around 50 asylum seekers reportedly staying at Napier Barracks, despite the facility being described in even worse terms by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons and the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.
The inspectors also indicated that recommendations and concerns from Public Health England and Public Health Wales had not been ‘actioned’ before the start of the camp’s use, which has prompted MPs to raise questions over the Home Office’s lack of disclosure.
Home Office has been forced to admit that it could have breached their human rights by keeping them there.
And last month, following legal action taken by six asylum seekers who had stayed at Napier, the Home Office has been forced to admit that it could have breached their human rights by keeping them there. The case will be considered at a full hearing later this year.
In the meantime, the Home Office was reported to be considering new and controversial future plans for housing asylum seekers, such as holding them offshore in non-EU countries while processing their claims. It’s also said that this week it will be announcing a New Immigration Plan.
The offshore countries mentioned included Gibraltar, the Isle of Man or islands off Scotland, but all regions have dismissed the plans when contacted by journalists, while also explaining that they had received no information of the plans reported in The Times and Daily Mail.
Turkey was also mentioned as a possible site for holding asylum seekers, even though it hosts the largest number of asylum seekers in the world by far, numbering nearly 4 million people. But such an arrangement would reflect the UK’s aims to have an asylum system closer to Australia’s.
In the meantime, the Home Office was reported to be considering new and controversial future plans for housing asylum seekers, such as holding them offshore
Commenting on Twitter over the proposal, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said: ‘This proposal is cruel, dangerous, and unworkable. Once again Priti Patel is using refugees as a political football, instead of simply ensuring they have safe and legal routes to rebuild their lives here.’
With more details expected this week, Home Secretary Priti Patel wrote in The Sun on the weekend her plan would be directed at ‘ending people smugglers preying on the vulnerable because of the asylum system.’
She also implied moves predominantly aimed at streamlining the appeals process to limit the number or appeals made once asylum has been refused, as well as life sentences for ‘people smugglers.’
[Header image: BBC]