High Court judge Mr Justice Linden has ruled that the Home Office acted unlawfully when it decided migrants could be housed at Napier Barracks in Kent – despite the site previously being used by Britain’s soldiers.
“Whether on the basis of the issues of COVID or fire safety taken in isolation, or looking at the cumulative effect of the decision making about, and the conditions in, the barracks, I do not accept the accommodation there ensured a standard of living which was adequate for the health of the claimants” he said.
“Insofar as the defendant considered that the accommodation was adequate for their needs, that view was irrational.”
The ruling will be a blow to the government, with ministers previously defending the accommodation. Back in February, immigration minister Chris Philp hit back at critics of the policy, saying: “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.”
The barracks become infamous over the last year because of regular reckless and illegal behaviour from the residents – many of whom arrived in the country illegally by small boat.
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 were briefly arrested following the breakout of a fire at the camp, which was 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, with a state-of-the-art gym once being in the offing too.