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UK News

Priti Patel faces calls to resign as court rules barracks housing for asylum seekers unlawful


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Priti Patel is facing calls to resign after a High Court ruled that the Home Office’s decision to house asylum seekers in army barracks was unlawful.

The SNP’s home affairs spokesperson Stuart McDonald said the home secretary put “hundreds of people in danger” by using dormitories as accommodation and called for her to “take full responsibility and resign”.

Labour chairwoman of the Home Affairs Committee Yvette Cooper said the judgment was “damning” and called Ms Patel’s conduct “irresponsible”.

Image: The High Court heard the government was warned that Napier was ‘not suitable’ for use during a pandemic

Her comments came as six asylum seekers who brought a legal challenge against “appalling” conditions at a disused army barracks won their High Court action against the Home Office.

The group housed at Napier Barracks in Kent had claimed the facilities were “inhumane” and “unsafe”.

The court found the accommodation was “inadequate” for asylum seekers, that the Home Office’s process for selecting people to be accommodated at the barracks was “flawed and unlawful”, and that residents there were unlawfully detained under “purported COVID rules”.

More on Covid-19

In his judgment, Mr Justice Linden said all of the men were “vulnerable victims of trafficking and/or torture, who experienced a deterioration in their mental health as a result of their accommodation”.

He added that Ms Patel’s decision to use the barracks as accommodation was “irrational”.

Responding to Thursday’s ruling, a Home Office spokesperson said “significant improvement works” have taken place at Napier Barracks since the six men were housed there between September 2020 and February 2021.

After the COVID outbreak and disorder at Napier, the camp's population has been reduced from more than 400 to just 63.
Image: The Home Office said it will ‘carefully consider the ruling and our next steps’

But Ms Patel has faced criticism since the ruling, with Mr McDonald posting on social media that it was “a disgraceful policy decision by the Home Office”.

He said in a tweet: “The Home Secretary ignored clear public health advice and put hundreds of people in danger with a Covid outbreak inevitable.

“She should take full responsibility & resign.”

Labour former shadow minister Ms Cooper added: “It’s clear – as the court judgment has said – it was inevitable that there could be a large-scale outbreak like this and appalling that it was because it obviously affected so many residents, but also staff who worked at the Napier Barracks, and also had an impact as a result of that on the local community as well.”

Others have called for the barracks to be shut down following the decision.

Mariam Kemple Hardy, head of campaigns at Refugee Action, said: “This judgment vindicates all those who repeatedly told the Government that recklessly forcing hundreds of refugees into crowded camps during a killer pandemic was a gamble with people’s lives.

“Napier Barracks and all other camp-style accommodation must be shut down.”

Majid (left) said he still suffered bouts of depression because of his time at Napier
Image: Majid (left) said he still suffered bouts of depression because of his time at Napier

Concluding his findings, Mr Justice Linden said: “Whether on the basis of the issues of COVID or fire safety taken in isolation, or looking at the cumulative effect of the decision making about, and the conditions in, the barracks, I do not accept the accommodation there ensured a standard of living which was adequate for the health of the claimants.”

Majid, a young Iranian asylum seeker who was transferred into a hotel after spending more than four months at the barracks, told Sky News he still suffered bouts of depression because of his time at Napier.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “It is disappointing that this judgment was reached on the basis of the site prior to the significant improvement works which have taken place in difficult circumstances. Napier will continue to operate and provide safe and secure accommodation.

“We will carefully consider the ruling and our next steps.”

 Sky News

© Sky News 2021

Written by: Rother Radio News

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