Minister hits back at critics who think asylum seekers deserve better accommodation than British soldiers

The immigration minister Chris Philp has hit back at government critics who oppose the use of settings like Napier Barracks to house asylum seekers, in a powerful Commons rebuke of the loony left.

Damian Collins – a wet Tory MP who spearheaded an anti-Brexit witch hunt as chair of the DCMS committee in the last parliament – demanded that Mr Philp confirm “that it is unsuitable for individuals to be placed there for prolonged periods”.

Philp admitted that the camp had been set up to deal with rising pressures on the asylum system, but insisted that “we have set it up in such a way as to be safe” before pointing out that “it is of course accommodation that was previously used by the brave men and women of our armed services.”

Collins’ question was followed up by SNP MP Stuart McDonald, who dubbed the use of former army facilities “a disaster and a disgrace”.

Philp remained firm: “No apology is due. As I just said, the barrack accommodation units in question were previously used by the brave men and women of our armed services. They were good enough for the armed services and they are certainly more than good enough for people who have arrived in this country seeking asylum. We fully comply with all the relevant guidelines.”

Napier Barracks has been at the centre of scandal for months, with the public looking on aghast at reports of pervasive lawlessness.

In December a wild migrant grabbed a knife and terrorised staff. In November, a suspected rapist from Sudan was moved into the camp, where another migrant had already been accused of sexually harassing a charity worker.

And nine men have now been arrested following the breakout of a fire at the camp, which is now being investigated as arson by local police.

The fire broke out at the end of a long saga that saw the asylum seekers protesting – in the middle of a pandemic – for their “freedom” despite reports that the camp includes plush amenities including Playstations and, soon, a state-of-the art gym.

The protesting inevitably led to a serious coronavirus outbreak, with 100 migrants being shuffled to nearby hotels in an act that some saw as a reward for bad behaviour.

One prescient social media user warned that “those left will riot and be removed to yet another hotel”, dubbing the situation a cat and mouse game. Another asked: “Why aren’t they being deported? This will just encourage more to come.”