Covid: '100 asylum seekers at former military barracks test positive for coronavirus'

Napier barracks is being used to house asylum seekers. Credit: ITV
  • Words ITV News Producer Harry Peet

A coronavirus outbreak at a former army barracks being used to house asylum seekers in Kent could now have grown to at least 100 positive cases, ITV News has been told.

One asylum seeker at the Napier Barracks near Folkestone claimed that almost one-quarter of the 400 men living there tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday.

Concerns were raised on Friday that cases could spiral out of control as the hundreds of men on the site were apparently still free to mix with each other and social distancing was “impossible.”

On Tuesday, Home Office minister for Immigration Chris Philp said that he was “incredibly disappointed” to learn that the actions of some residents had contributed to the outbreak.

In a statement he said: “A number of individuals refused tests and have been either refusing to self-isolate or follow social distancing rules, despite repeated requests to do so and these being national guidelines to protect the NHS and save lives.

“These individuals could face enforcement action and are not only risking their own health but the health of staff looking after them and the communities who are accommodating them.”

Mr Philp's response has caused anger among some of the asylum seekers within the barracks who say that they should not be blamed.

An Iranian asylum seeker who did not want to be named said he was "furious", adding: "It’s 100% not our fault.

Residents protested against their living conditions by sleeping outside of the barracks. Credit: Care 4 Calais

“Do they not think it has something to do with putting us all in one place?

“Putting 400 people in one place is a major risk.”

Calls are growing for the site to be shut down.

In a letter to the Home Office last week, Folkestone MP Damian Collins said “the best solution would be for the asylum seekers to have their claims processed and for this facility to be closed down."