High Court orders the Secretary of State to move another asylum seeker from Napier barracks within 24 hours

The High Court again this week ordered that another asylum seeker housed at Napier barracks must be moved to alternative accommodation within 24 hours. This comes after the court made a similar ruling at an oral hearing on Tuesday 2 February. The case will now proceed on an urgent basis to an oral permission hearing where the court will rule whether the claims should proceed to a full judicial review.

Napier Barracks has been used to accommodate around 400 asylum seekers since September 2020 despite multiple warnings from NGOs that the barracks were completely unsuitable to house so many residents, many of whom have complex needs stemming from fleeing violence, persecution, and torture.

Our client who is a victim of torture arrived in the United Kingdom to seek refuge. Instead of sanctuary, he has been forced to sleep in a dormitory in overcrowded, unsanitary, and completely unsuitable former army barracks, whilst subjected to prison-like conditions. Like so many of the Napier barracks residents, these conditions have caused a downwards spiral in our client’s mental health.

Unsurprisingly given the overcrowded conditions, in mid-January 2021 there was a massive Covid-19 outbreak. Instead of immediately putting in place measures to protect residents, the asylum seekers were locked in the barracks and Covid-19 was allowed to run rampant, with those who had tested positive for Covid-19 left sharing dormitories and other facilities with those who had not. It is reported at least a 1/3 of residents tested positive for Covid-19 and in all likelihood many more. To compound the already hellish conditions, following a fire at the barracks on 29 January, during which staff were evacuated whilst asylum seekers remained locked in, residents were left without electricity and heating over the weekend. Humanitarian aid in the form of water, food and blankets had to be provided by charities.

Matthew Gold and Co. on behalf of the Claimant filed compelling evidence from the Claimant and voluntary organisations attesting to the conditions and unsuitability of the barracks. The Court will be asked to consider whether the conditions in the barracks breach the Claimant’s human rights and meet his essential living needs as required by s.95 asylum support. The Court will be asked to determine whether our client has suffered inhuman and degrading treatment contrary to Article 3 and whether he has been lawfully deprived of his liberty and falsely imprisoned. The Court will also be asked to consider whether the Secretary of State has complied with her Equality Act duties and has acted lawfully in using the barracks as asylum support accommodation.

Matthew Gold & Co represents over a dozen men who are or were housed at Napier barracks.

The Claimant is represented by Clare Jennings, Director and Head of Public Law and Olivia Halse, Associate Solicitor, and Shu Shin Luh and Antonia Benfield and Doughty Street Chambers.

Clare Jennings, commented:

“No-one should be subjected to the conditions at Napier barracks, and certainly not those seeking sanctuary in the UK having suffered unimaginable horrors. A covid outbreak at the barracks all but inevitable. But the abject failure to take any meaningful steps to protect these men from catching Covid-19 is truly shocking. Instead of protecting residents the gates were locked and they were left trapped inside, with no option but to share bedrooms and facilities. We welcome the Court’s decision that our client should be moved immediately, but call on the Secretary of State to do the right thing and close down these barracks”.

Olivia Halse, Associate Solicitor, commented:

“As asylum seekers, all of the men that have been placed in the barracks are extremely vulnerable. Many have made traumatic journeys to claim refuge in the UK in the hopes that our government would assist them, but unfortunately they have been completely let down. There has been no consideration of increasingly deleterious impact that living in these conditions is having on the mental and physical health of these men. They have been unlawfully deprived of their freedom and their basic human rights have simply been ignored. It is hoped that the Government’s actions will receive much needed judicial scrutiny and that the Government will take the necessary steps to close down barracks and provide all of these men with the suitable and adequate support they most desperately need.”