The High Court will consider whether the Home Secretary acted unlawfully in housing asylum seekers at the controversial Napier Barracks. The Home Office has revealed that it plans to continue using the former army barracks as asylum accommodation at least until September. After moving former residents as a result of the furore over the inappropriateness of the site, the government last week started housing asylum seekers there again.
Starting today, Mr Justice Linden will hear the case of six asylum seekers arguing that the accommodation contravened the Home Secretary’s own policies and was in breach of the Claimants’ right to life, their rights of freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment and their private and family lives under the European Convention on Human Rights. They also claim that they were unlawfully detained for a period due to a curfew.
In January, 178 people tested positive for COVID-19 at the barracks; however the Home Secretary Priti Patel maintained that it was suitable accommodation though ‘people do mingle’. The Home Affairs Committee chair Yvette Cooper MP responded to Patel, stating: ‘What effectively you’re saying is blaming those people for not following the rules when they were put in accommodation where they had to sleep over 28 people to a room.’
In addition to the increased risk of catching COVID-19, campaigners have complained about the lack of access to legal advice, healthcare, and necessary provisions for potential victims of trafficking.
‘Asylum-seeker clients living at Napier all winter said they felt unheard and forgotten about,’ commented Sue Willman solicitor of Deighton Pierce Glynn. ‘This week’s trial is a chance to hear about what they experienced. We hope the judge will conclude that the conditions in the barracks were unlawful because they violate the right of anyone seeking asylum in the UK to a basic standard of living and humane treatment.’ Deighton Pierce Glynn and Matthew Gold Solicitors are representing the six claimants.
Lara ten Caten, a lawyer at Liberty, which is intervening in the case, told the Independent that the site was ‘overcrowded, unhygienic, and has already proved to put people at risk of a coronavirus outbreak’. ‘This is a clear breach of people’s fundamental right to respect for human dignity,’ she said.