Home Office Apologises For Lack Of Consultation On Migrant Housing At Barracks

Around 400 people are to be housed at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, but local politicians have expressed concerns.

The Home Office has apologised for the lack of consultation on plans to house migrants at military barracks in Kent, saying it was "hugely unfortunate".

Napier Barracks in Folkestone will house around 400 people, more than any other Home Office "initial accommodation site".

It comes as the government struggles to find accommodation for migrants arriving in the UK on small boats.

A virtual public meeting was held to discuss the plans on Friday, after concerns were raised.

The director of the Home Office's borders, immigration and citizenship system, Deborah Chittenden said it was "hugely unfortunate" there had not been better consultation over the plans.

"I accept that the initial engagement was not what we want and I apologise for that. It was genuinely all done at pace," she said.

Earlier this month, a Watchkeeper drone was deployed to monitor migrant crossings in the English Channel (Picture: MOD).

She added: "At the moment the system has been blocked with Covid.

"There are not very many options available that can be stood up in essentially what is less than two weeks."

Napier Barracks is among two Ministry of Defence sites offered as part of an "emergency response" to the shortage.

Home Office Headquarters
The Home Office is trying to find more accommodation for migrants

According to analysis by the PA news agency, a total of nearly 7,000 migrants have crossed the Channel to the UK aboard small boats in 2020.

Those arriving at Napier Barracks have already quarantined for the two-week period which is mandatory for people arriving from France.

It had been reported that families would be housed at the barracks but the meeting on Friday was told that the migrants will instead be single males.

Ms Chittenden said: "These asylum seekers are just ordinary people like you and me and they are here seeking protection.

"Many of them have risked their lives to get here, they are not criminals and they are not being detained."

They will be given food and toiletries as well as access to leisure and exercise facilities. They will not be given cash.

The Home Office will pay to run the site.

Ms Chittenden also explained that about 90 UK hotels are being used to house migrants, adding: "They are not great value for the taxpayer, however we have to use them because they are available accommodation.”

Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins said the situation at Napier Barracks gave him "a great deal of cause for concern".

He said: "I do not support this decision, I don't think this is a good idea, I don't want it to happen.

"But if there is nothing we can do about that then I and the council and everyone else have to do everything we can to make a success of it."

Closing the meeting, David Monk, leader of Folkestone and Hythe District Council, said: "We are a tolerant society, the people of Folkestone are nice people and I am sure it will work out all right in the end."

It comes after a Watchkeeper drone, previously used in Afghanistan, was deployed to monitor migrant boats.

An RAF Atlas has also recently been deployed to support Border Force operations in the Channel.

Cover image: Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent.