Napier Barracks: The Home Office, Answers and Humanity
In Remarks to Sandgate Parish Council Meeting, 15th September
You may also have heard very recently that the Home Office contacted the District Council last Thursday afternoon (10th September) to explain they had plans, previously never mentioned or discussed, to house a migrant processing centre at Napier Barracks.
I am incredulous that they can have failed to consult, or even notify of plans to open such a centre, and yet are planning on doing so on Monday 21st September.
They are still yet to give even basic clear details like the number of people, for how long individuals will be there, what the purpose is or how long the centre will be open. They claim it is for "processing", but is that ID checking and finger printing before being moved on, or waiting until their asylum application has been decided, which could take years?
We don't have answers to the security on site, or the security for the areas around the site, including Sandgate and Cheriton. We are told it is to be an "open" site, but without real clarification on what that means in practice, or how it will be policed. In short, it is being imposed by Government on a site they don't know without local input or consultation at a breakneck speed.
Napier Barracks consists mainly of 120 year old barrack blocks with the most basic accommodation. If the plans are for more than 1 or 2 nights at a time, there have to be questions about how reasonable it is to hold people there, and on what terms. I can't say this is the right place, or the wrong place for their centre - we have far too little information to judge, becuase we don't even know what sort of centre it is.
Those at this site are likely to be desperate people who have undergone terrible journeys. We should be treating them with respect and humanity. But at the same time we should be treating all our neighbours with that respect and humanity. With the currently scarce information from the Home Office, we simply don't know what it going to happen there, for how long, and for how many.
The Leader of the District Council David Monk, MP Damian Collins and I are pushing for more of those answers, and when, or if, we get them I'll make sure they are passed on. This is not how decisions should work, but I know, because Sandgate is like that, that we'll play our part in making sure that if it opens the site is safe and hospitable for those in it and outside.