T

he High Court will hear a legal challenge brought by six asylum seekers previously housed at a former army barracks who claim conditions at the site pose “real and immediate risks to life”.

The Napier Barracks in Kent has been used to accommodate hundreds of asylum seekers since last September, despite the Home Office being previously warned by Public Health England that it was unsuitable.

Almost 200 people tested positive for coronavirus during an outbreak at the barracks earlier this year, senior Home Office officials told MPs in February.

At an earlier hearing, also in February, the High Court heard asylum seekers at the barracks were left “powerless to protect themselves” against Covid-19 because of the Home Office’s failures to “prevent the spread”.

People seeking asylum – Napier Barracks / PA Wire

Lawyers representing the six men, all said to be “survivors of torture and/or human trafficking”, also said there was “a mental health crisis” at the barracks, with four residents having attempted suicide and others having self-harmed.

They argue the Home Office is unlawfully accommodating people at the barracks, where conditions pose “real and immediate risks to life and of ill-treatment”.

On Wednesday, a two-day hearing concerning the lawfulness of housing asylum seekers at Napier Barracks will be begin at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

In February, lawyers for the Home Office conceded that the majority of the men’s claims were “arguable” after documents which undermined its written defence were discovered shortly before the hearing.

Napier Barracks incident / PA Wire

The six men’s lawyers told the court at that hearing that the Home Office “knew or ought to have known of the impossibility of effective means of controlling or containing infection at the barracks”.

Shu Shin Luh, representing two of them, said there are “present and continuing” risks to asylum seekers at Napier Barracks.

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