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Urgent Letter to Home Office: Napier Barracks, Shorncliffe

September 15, 2020 9:00 PM

Folkestone and Hythe District Council logo (Folkestone and Hythe District Council logo)Chris Philp MP

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State,

Home Office, 2 Marsham Street,

London SW1P 4DF

14th September, 2020

Dear Minister

We are writing to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the manner in which Folkestone & Hythe District Council appears to have been disregarded in any decision-making to house asylum seekers at the Napier Barracks in Folkestone. To add insult to injury we have now been advised that the decision has been made and no-one has had the courtesy to advise the council and its members.

The utter disregard shown by the Home Office in dealing with this issue is nothing short of contemptuous. Our councillors and council staff had to learn of the rumour that the plan was afoot following a post on Twitter on Wednesday. Since then the plan has been widely circulated on social media, yet we are still waiting for official confirmation. And if, as suggested by the rumour mill, asylum seekers may be moving in as early as next Monday this appalling communication continues to beggar belief.

We appreciate that you advised local authority chief executives in March that you would have to make difficult decisions at short notice. We all understand the pressures that COVID-19 has exerted, but for you not to have made contact with this local authority about this decision is appalling. We must be absolutely clear that this is not a case of nimbyism but one of giving us absolutely no opportunity to discuss whether Napier Barracks is the right location for this accommodation.

There are very few local amenities in the immediate vicinity of Napier Barracks and as we feel that as this is unlikely to be a secure unit then it is understandable that the asylum seekers may gravitate to other areas of Folkestone. This will exacerbate community tensions in a district where the partner agencies have been working extremely hard to ensure that our communities live alongside each other with no resort to protest and direct action that we have seen in other areas.

There seems to have been little or no recognition that it is this local authority which will be required to support many of the wrap-around services that additional accommodation, such as this, will need.

In addition we feel that there has been little consideration of the strain on our local economy, which together with our business community, we have been working hard to rebuild following the damaging impact that lockdown has had on the Folkestone and Hythe district.

We make no apology for this strongly worded letter. There seems to have been no process to gather local views and we urge you to think again about whether Napier Barracks is the appropriate location to house a large number of asylum seekers.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr David Monk, Leader

Cllr Tim Prater, Ward Member and Chairman of Sandgate Parish Council