Court hears defence into legality of housing asylum seekers at former barracks

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In the second day of a legal challenge brought by six asylum seekers at the high court, the government defended its decision to house hundreds of people at Napier barracks in Folkestone.

A judge was told that the Home Office was facing a crisis created by an increase in asylum claims, and although the situation at Napier wasn't ideal, it was improving.

Last summer's surge in migrants crossing the channel in small boats led to an accommodation crisis for those who sought asylum.

The Napier Barracks in Folkestone was one of the Home Office solutions.

Napier Barracks Credit: ITV Meridian

Priti Patel's legal team had to defend the decision to house migrants at Napier Barracks in the high court on Thursday (15/04).

It comes after six former residents said the former army camp was "unsuitable and unsafe", particularly in a pandemic. 

Almost 200 people tested positive for Coronavirus during an outbreak earlier this year.

Ms Patel's lawyer said the decision has got to be judged in the light of the accommodation crisis but said it's absolutely not the case everything was perfect. The Secretary of State's legal team said this is why so much effort is being put in now to make improvements that will enable the site to run as it was intended.

The defence argue that by introducing safeguards, including selecting the individuals who could be housed there with the least risk, Priti Patel had reached a reasonable decision.

Whether Napier Barracks should have been used by the Home Office, has yet to be decided. Credit: ITV Meridian

Lisa Giovannetti QC, representing the Home Office, said: "It's not just how high is the risk of an outbreak, but how significant is the impact likely to be on the profile of the individuals being placed in this accommodation. The Secretary of State's position is that these were being sifted out to be relatively young people in good health."

The defence says the age of the buildings does not demonstrate that the Secretary of State is in breach of her duty, nor does the fact that the site is surrounded by a barbed wire fence.

Whether it should have been used by the Home Office, and whether it could be in the future has yet to be decided.