Nine further arrests in connection with disturbance and fire at Kent army camp

Nine further men have now been arrested in connection with what police have called "a disturbance and a fire" at a former army camp housing nearly 400 asylum seekers in Kent.

Footage shows heavy smoke billowing from Napier Barracks in Folkestone and blaring alarms can be heard. Video from inside the barracks, shared with ITV News, shows overturned tables and chairs, and rubbish strewn around the kitchens.

Eight fire engines were called to the scene on Friday afternoon to assist Kent Police.

The nine men were detained on Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 January as part of Kent Police’s investigation into the incident on Friday. They have been taken into custody as enquiries continue.

Five men previously arrested in connection with the incident remain in custody. One of these suspects, 31-year-old Mohammed Ali, has been charged with assault by beating, using or threatening unlawful violence and criminal damage.

Mr Ali has been remanded in custody to appear before Medway Magistrates’ Court on Monday 1 February. 

No serious injuries were reported as a result of the incident, however a significant amount of damage was caused to one part of the site following a fire – which is believed to have been started deliberately.

Police were called to Napier Barracks in Folkestone on Friday

Detectives are continuing to appeal for anyone with information, including mobile phone footage and photographs of the disturbance, to contact them at the earliest opportunity.

Officers also remain at the barracks, as part of their continuing enquiries. Police say the fire believed to have been started deliberately.

The Home Office has confirmed it has no plans to move any asylum seekers out of the site and is instead ensuring that they are safely moved elsewhere on the site where there is no damage.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has described the "damage and destruction" at the barracks "appalling" and "deeply offensive to the taxpayers of this country who are providing this accommodation while asylum claims are being processed".

She added: “This type of action will not be tolerated and the Home Office will support the police to take robust action against those vandalising property, threatening staff and putting lives at risk.

"This site has previously accommodated our brave soldiers and army personnel – it is an insult to say that it is not good enough for these individuals. I am fixing our broken asylum system, and will be bringing forward legislation this year to deliver on that commitment.”

Bridget Chapman, Kent Refugee Action Network

Stephen James was stationed at the barracks for a number of years as a soldier. He believes his fellow local residents are generally welcoming.

Stephen James, former soldier

Eight fire engines rushed to the scene on Friday afternoon Credit: ITV News Meridian

Eyewitness and local resident, Lynn Dixon, described hearing shouting followed by a "plume of black smoke and a couple of loud bangs".

Fears for the welfare of those living at the site escalated this week after 120 people are believed to have tested positive for coronavirus.

The Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins, said a "dispute broke out" at the barracks after a number of asylum seekers, who tested negative for Covid-19, were "moved off site" which caused "anger" among those who were told they had to stay.

He added: "Disorder broke out at the barracks, and that led to a group of the residents setting fire to one of the buildings which has caused considerable damage. I don't believe anyone has been injured but there will now need to be an emergency assessment of the site over the weekend to determine security, what facilities are still useable and to accommodate people if they need to be moved off site."

More than 18,000 people have signed a petition to shut down the barracks amid concerns over conditions inside.