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Conditions at Napier Barracks improve but bedrooms still grim, inspectors find
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Conditions at a notorious asylum accommodation centre in Kent have improved, a watchdog reports. The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Neal, said his team had “observed conditions at Napier Barracks that should have been in place over a year ago”.
Inspectors were so appalled by their first visit to Napier in February/March 2021 that they rushed out an emergency report. This re-inspection took place in March 2022 and the report published yesterday. The main improvement on last time is the guarantee that people will spend no more than 90 days in the former military camp. Mr Neal describes this as “central to the improved atmosphere on the site”. There have also been physical improvements: better kitchens and recreation areas, no barbed wire, electrical sockets and clean showers. Residents praised the food and the “kind” staff.
The actual bedrooms remain grim despite “some superficial improvements”. The original inspection had “found the sleeping accommodation to be in a poor condition and unfortunately there had been little improvement… Sleep deprivation was a problem that was consistently raised with inspectors”. Mr Neal said he was “disappointed” about the lack of progress.
Last week, the High Court found flaws in the planning process allowing Napier to be used as asylum accommodation for five years. Mrs Justice Lieven held that the relevant government minister had failed to have proper regard to the public sector equality duty; a follow-up hearing will take place this month to decide on the consequences (if any) of this finding.
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