Saturday, Jan 30th 2021
‘They were good enough for our brave soldiers’: Priti slams migrants held at ex-army barracks as they ‘start riot, and torch buildings’ – after being told they would no longer be transferred to hotels after Covid outbreak’ – as police launch arson probe
Dramatic footage shows flames bursting from barracks, in Folkestone, Kent, where asylum seekers are held
Fire crews, ambulances and police officers are on scene dealing with the ongoing incident this afternoon
Napier Barracks have been used by the Government to house 400 asylum seekers since September 2020
Home Secretary Priti Patel tonight slammed those involved, describing behaviour as ‘an insult to taxpayers’
Petition calling for them to be shut down over concerns about conditions signed by more than 18,000 people
By KATIE FEEHAN and JAMES FIELDING and JAMES ROBINSON FOR MAILONLINE and JAMES TAPSFIELD POLITICAL EDITOR FOR MAILONLINE
Priti Patel has tonight slammed the behaviour of migrants being held at a former army barracks, amid reports that a 100-strong group started a riot, torched buildings and threatened staff at the temporary asylum seeker site.
The Home Secretary strongly condemned the unrest at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, and police launched a probe after the disturbance, which reportedly broke out when migrants were told they would no longer be transferred to hotels following a Covid outbreak.
Ms Patel described the behaviour of those involved as ‘deeply offensive to the taxpayers of this country’ and said it was an ‘insult’ to suggest the site, formerly home to British soldiers, was ‘not good enough’ for asylum seekers.
An arson investigation has been launched by Kent Police after the blaze caused a significant amount of damage to at least one part of the site, where hundreds of asylum seekers have been living – but the fire is now under control as crews stay on site to dampen out remaining hotspots.
Ms Patel promised ‘robust action’ against the instigators, as she summoned a Gold Command meeting of senior officials to discuss the incident this evening.
It comes as dramatic footage from the scene shows large plumes of smoke billowing into the sky above the barracks this afternoon.
Dozens of emergency service workers were at the scene as huge flames engulfed at least one of the buildings. Officers believe the fire was started deliberately but added the incident is not being treated as a riot.
Detective Chief Superintendent Andrew Pritchard said: ‘We are carrying out inquiries and working with partners including the Home Office and Kent Fire and Rescue Service to establish the circumstances surrounding this serious incident and the identities of those who may have been involved.
‘Whilst the exact nature of the disturbance and any potential links to the fire are still being investigated, it would be inaccurate to refer to the disturbance as a riot and it is not being treated as such. There have been no arrests but inquiries are ongoing.’
The barracks have been used by the Government to house 400 asylum seekers since September, despite concerns from human rights charities about the conditions.
Around 120 people living within the accommodation – which primarily houses migrants who have crossed the Channel in dinghies from France – have recently tested positive for Covid, according to migrants at the site.
Sources told MailOnline that the asylum seekers who had tested positive for Covid had been moved elsewhere yesterday to ease pressure on the site.
But they say those who remained became ‘angry’ that some had been allowed to leave and a ‘riot’ was started involving around 100 migrants.