400 Migrants to Be Housed in Former Army Barracks ‘Open Camp’ in Kent

DEAL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: Recently landed migrants walk along the coast on September 15, 2020 at Kingsdown Beach in Deal, England. More than 6,100 migrants have made the crossing by boat this year according to an analysis by the Press Association. (Photo by Luke Dray/Getty Images)
Luke Dray/Getty Images

In a move reminiscent of the notorious — and often violent — large scale migrant camps in Greece, the Home Office has commandeered a former army barracks to house some 400 migrants in Kent as record-breaking waves of migrants cross the English Channel.

On Tuesday, Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe in Kent, Damian Collins, alongside the leader of the local council David Monk and council chairman Tim Prater wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel to express their “great concerns” about the camp in the Napier Barracks, which is set to start housing supposed asylum seekers on September 21st.

“We have great concerns about the impact this large open camp will have on the welfare of the local residential community and also those people in the asylum system who will be placed at the barracks itself,” the letter said.

“We would ask that you reverse this decision and find more suitable accommodation for people who are currently having their cases processed by the asylum system,” the local leaders added.

They warned that the installation of a large migrant camp will have a destabilising effect on the local community, as the mostly young and male migrants will be free to leave the facility and enter the surrounding towns.

In a statement, the Folkestone and Hythe district council criticised the Home Office for the “lack of consultation on this matter and the exceptionally poor communication with us”.

During the growing boat migrant crisis in the UK, the Home Office has taken to housing supposed asylum seekers in hotels across the country.

Embarrassingly for the government, the scheme was exposed by Brexit leader Nigel Farage to include a hotel in Home Secretary Priti Patel’s own constituency. The Home Office bowed to public pressure, claiming that the reception facilities at the hotel would be shut down, and the illegal aliens would be moved to another location.

The move to set up a dedicated migrant camp in a former army barracks is a dramatic escalation in the government’s policy, signifying that the record-breaking waves of migrants are putting a strain on the government’s ability to cope with the scale of the issue.

The move is also eerily similar to the situation in Greece, in which thousands of boat migrants are being housed in often squalid and overcrowded camps.

Last week, some 13,000 migrants were left homeless after a fire burned down the notorious Moria migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.

The camp, which was converted from a former army barracks, was said to have only been capable of housing 3,000 people. However, as more and more migrants flooded into Greece, camps have regularly been pushed beyond the upper limits of their capacities.

Since its inception, the Moria camp was plagued by violence and fires, often set by migrants themselves. Following the latest fire, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that his government is planning on building a massive replacement camp to house migrants on the island.

Like Greece, the United Kingdom has been unable to stem the tide of illegal boat migration.

The Home Office has been attempting for months to secure an arrangement with France that would see migrants immediately returned to the safe and wealthy EU member state. However, it does not appear that the French are willing to agree to such a deal in the near future.

On Tuesday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said that the government is looking into setting up asylum processing centres in Calais, France, as well as in Belgium to document migrants and discourage them from illegally travelling to the UK.

So far this year, over 6,000 migrants have been recorded to have successfully reached British shores by crossing the English Channel from France. The true number is likely to be much higher in reality, however, as it does not reflect those migrants who claim to be minors or those who evade authorities.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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