The housing of migrants who crossed the English Channel in former army barracks has been deemed unlawful by the High Court.
The Napier Barracks in Folkestone were determined to be “unsafe” and judged to have played a part in a Covid outbreak this year.
The barracks where found to be inadequate in several areas. It was deemed that the facility was overcrowded, the buildings were run-down, “filthy” and not fit for habitation.
Almost two hundred migrants contracted coronavirus during an outbreak at the barracks. There had also been a fire at the barracks, which had seen fourteen migrants arrested.
Judge Linden supported the migrants who brought the claim against the Home Office by arguing that the accommodation did not ensure “a standard of living which was adequate for the health of the claimants”.
The Home Office defended the use of the barracks by arguing that they had been commissioned at short notice and have seen improvements since the case was brought to the courts.
The hearing in the case was brought in April.
The judge in the case said: “I do not accept that the accommodation there ensured a standard of living which was adequate for the health of the claimants.
“Insofar as the defendant considered that the accommodation was adequate for their needs, that view was irrational.”
Mr Linden continued: “They were supposed to live voluntarily pending a determination of their applications for asylum.
“When this is considered, a decision that accommodation in a detention-like setting – a site enclosed by a perimeter fence topped with barbed wire, access to which is through padlocked gates guarded by uniformed security personnel – will be adequate for their needs, begins to look questionable.”
A Home Office spokesman responded to the court’s decision by saying: “During the height of the pandemic, to ensure asylum-seekers were not left destitute, additional accommodation was required at extremely short notice.
“Such accommodation provided asylum seekers a safe and secure place to stay. Throughout this period, our accommodation providers and sub-contractors have made improvements to the site and continue to do so.
“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.”