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Impact of Housing Refugees and People Seeking Asylum in Ministry of Defence Sites

Jennifer Blair

In September 2020 the Home Office established refugee camps in MoD sites, which were former military barracks. Sites have opened in Penally in Pembrokeshire, Wales and Napier in Kent, England. People were moved onto the sites before healthcare systems and facilities were fully in place.

HBF has very serious concerns about the Home Office’s shift away from local community dispersal, which promotes recovery and integration and reduces difference and discrimination. The reported attempted suicide by a person seeking asylum who was detained in Napier barracks is evidence of the harm and risk this approach brings.

The remote locations of the Camps reduce access to specialist services, such as domestic abuse, modern slavery and LGBTQ+ health services. The number of new arrivals in the United Kingdom of people seeking asylum has reduced in 2020 and the number of people in asylum accommodation is lower than it has been at other times in recent history. 

HBF believes that former military barracks:

  1. Are an unsuitable location for survivors of trafficking, torture and other human rights abuses. The sites are re-traumatising, particularly for survivors of captivity and persecution from military and para-military forces;
  2. Will harm survivor health by keeping people in isolated, open-prison like conditions, with minimal access to specialist community services, advice and socio-cultural and educational activities;
  3. Are inappropriate and harmful given the mass shared facilities, lack of privacy and the way that facilities and healthcare pathways are only being developed after people have been placed on site (with no specialist trauma-focused therapeutic support, which is a core health need for refugee populations);
  4. Place residents, non-residents in local communities and staff (including clinical staff) at an unacceptable and avoidable risk of Covid-19 and communicable disease. The mass facilities do not effectively allow for social distancing, there are serious concerns about the lack of preparedness for crisis situations in the sites and Covid protocols and people are being transferred in from multiple different local authorities, without self-isolation in advance.

Click on the download link below to read the full report, including several case examples.