A coronavirus outbreak at a military barracks housing asylum seekers is believed to have infected 120 people.
Fears of a health crisis have intensified at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, where some 400 people live.
Neighbors, many of whom have crossed the English Channel in small boats, have called it “unbearable” and say that social distancing is impossible.
A Covid-19 outbreak has added to concerns about conditions in the camp, where there have been reports of suicide attempts.
Earlier this month, many residents went on a hunger strike protesting the conditions, which reportedly include 34 people sharing a shower.
A petition to shut down the site, along with a similar facility at a barracks in Wales, has garnered more than 10,000 signatures.
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The controversial facility in Kent features barbed-wire fencing and hosted Canadian troops in World War II.
The Home Office, which took over the site last year, insists the accommodation is “safe, adequate and Covid-compliant.”
An open letter to ‘all British citizens’ from an asylum seeker living in Napier Barracks and reportedly signed by more than 200 residents has been shared by the refugee charity Choose Love.
The letter calls Home Secretary Priti Patel and Immigration Minister Chris Philp about conditions at the site.
He says, “We came to this country to save our lives. Lives that were mostly in jeopardy due to war and prosecution.
“However, we are in an army camp and we are surrounded by fences and security guards.”
The undated letter says at least 120 cases of coronavirus have been identified at the barracks with more test results pending.
The figure of 120 cases has been communicated to the Interior Ministry, which has so far declined to comment on the matter.
A Freedom from Torture petition to empty the barracks in Kent and Wales and close them has accumulated more than 10,000 signatures in less than two days.
Kolbassia Haoussou, senior advocate for survivors for the charity, said: “A major crisis is unfolding in these unhealthy and dangerous places. Many of the people trapped here have weak immune systems and mental health problems related to the abuse they have fled.
Related Video: Protesters Gather Outside Napier Barracks In October Last Year
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“The government has the power to end this nightmare now. Empty the barracks, close the fields, save lives.
Bella Sankey, director of the charity Detention Action, echoed calls to close the barracks “before they are engulfed by tragedy.”
Immigration Minister Mr Philp said: “We take the welfare of those in our care very seriously and asylum seekers can contact the 24/7 helpline run by Migrant Help if they have any problems.” .
The use of Napier Barracks to house asylum seekers was initially authorized for six months under emergency provisions, but the Home Office has said it is considering extending its use beyond the current deadline around March.
The request can be accessed here.