Home Office placed hundreds of asylum seekers at ‘serious risk’ of fire in Napier Barracks, document reveals

The Home Office placed hundreds of asylum seekers in military barracks where they were at “significant risk” of a fire breaking out, previously unseen documents show.

A report by the fire safety inspectorate into Napier Barracks in Kent found that the measures in place to reduce the risk of fire at the site did not ensure residents were “appropriately protected from serious risk”.

The Ministry of Defence site was repurposed into asylum accommodation in September and around 400 individuals were subsequently moved in.

It has now emerged that an inspection of the barracks by the Crown Premises’ Fire Safety Inspectorate (CPFSI) in November found that there was “no effective fire safety measure” in place, smoke alarms were “not correctly sited” and emergency evacuation drills had not been undertaken.

“The failures to co-operate and to co-ordinate fire safety measures as necessary have led to a consequent failure to protect relevant people appropriately from serious risk,” it states.

The damning report was sent to Home Office contractors on 30 November, along with a letter from the fire safety inspectorate ordering them to rectify the issues highlighted within 28 days.

The letter, seen by The Independent, states: “Following the fire safety inspection of the above premises on 24/11/2020, I am writing to confirm my opinion that the identified individuals or groups of people would be at risk in case of fire. You will need to take action to ensure their safety.

“In the event that a permanent solution cannot be implemented immediately, you will need to introduce interim measures to reduce the level of risk whilst longer-term measures are being prepared.”

Lawyers acting on behalf of former Napier Barracks residents say however that the Home Office failed to comply and did not take action to rectify the fire safety issues until March 2021, when home Office contractor Clearsprings carried out a fire risk assessment.

fire broke out at the camp on 29 January, during which no one was harmed but a “significant amount of damage” was caused.

The fire inspectorate’s warnings were revealed during a court hearing surrounding the legality of the Home Office’s use of Napier Barracks as accommodation for asylum seekers, with lawyers acting on behalf of six former residents arguing that the conditions amount to being unlawful.

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