Today the Prison’s Inspectorate (HMIP) and Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) released damning key findings from their inspection visit to the former Ministry of Defence barracks in February.
The two former MoD sites were repurposed in September as contingency asylum support accommodation. The sites, Penally in south Wales and Napier in Kent, were handed to contractor Clearsprings Ready Homes, and they began to be used for single men seeking asylum in need of support very shortly after – with little refurbishment appearing to be done and minimal engagement with local statutory services and other agencies prior to their use.
These initial findings will come as little surprise to many who have visited the sites or the organisations involved in supporting the men accommodated there. Conditions and treatment of the men at these sites has been the subject of heavy criticism from many parties including support services and lawyers.
The HMIP and ICIBI visits form part of an inspection currently underway into the use of contingency accommodation– the final report will be sent to the Home Office and published by the government. It is not common for key findings to be released ahead of this process although these findings have already been shared with government.
The findings, which can be found here point to a complete disregard of professional advice from Public Health England and Wales as well as the Crown Premises Fire Safety Inspectorate. Despite the fact that the Home Office and contractors were notified of the inspection visit, Inspectors found that ‘cleanliness at both sites was variable at best and some areas were filthy’. The management of the contractors are described as ‘lacking the experience and skills’ to run sites of this type.
Enver Solomon, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council responded to the findings:
“The inspectorate has revealed just how shambolic and badly managed the operation to open and run the barracks has been and how appalling the conditions and treatment of those living there has been. It is truly shocking that the government thought this type of accommodation was acceptable.
The plan was doomed from the start and the government must now waste no time in shutting down the barracks. The lessons must be learned from this sorry episode so that it is never repeated and instead every person who comes to this country seeking asylum is treated with the respect, dignity and humanity they deserve.”