The High Court ruled housing refugees in Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, until 2026 was in breach of the Equality Act – the second time the plans have been branded unlawful
Another of Priti Patel’s controversial asylum schemes has been ruled illegal – as she waits for a court verdict on her Rwanda plan.
The Home Secretary granted herself a five-year extension to house migrants in dilapidated Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent – where hundreds of migrants sleep 14 to a dorm.
But a judge ruled on Friday that the plan breached the Equality Act, designed to protect people from discrimination.
It was the second time Ms Patel’s plans for Napier were branded unlawful.
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In June last year transfers there were temporarily halted after the High Court ruled the selection process was unlawful.
Another defeat came in March this year, when she lost a High Court challenge brought by three asylum seekers after she admitted their phones were illegally seized under a blanket policy targeting migrants crossing the Channel.
Napier Barracks were initially loaned from the MoD in September 2020 to help with a backlog caused by Covid.
But Mrs Justice Lieven highlighted potential victimisation and harassment, plus tensions with the local community once the scheme was extended to 2026.
Napier has divided opinion. Far-right groups opposing the presence of asylum seekers have protested outside the camp.
Others expressed concern for the welfare of refugees – and the impact on the community.
Tonight campaigners who crowdfunded £40,000 to mount the court challenge against Ms Patel hailed it a victory.
Organiser Sally Hough, who lives in Folkestone and helps migrants with legal and welfare issues, said: “I am delighted. The judgment vindicates the concerns of local people and camp residents.
“The judge reached the same view we did – that the Home Office shouldn’t have used the barracks long term without properly assessing how it was going to impact the community and vulnerable people at the camp.”
The legal ruling comes as the Government scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda faces a High Court challenge – on July 19.
Refuguee charities Care4Calais and Detention Action – along with the Public and Commercial Services Union are seeking permission for a judicial review.
If approved, the review could take place during the same hearing – set to last three days.
The decision to house up to 400 male migrants at Napier caused a storm from day one. In early 2021, some 197 were infected in a Covid outbreak.
Last year many were evacuated when a fire – thought to have been deliberately started – broke out.
The Government had used emergency planning laws to use Napier for 12 months.
When that expired, Ms Patel secured use of the base until 2026 via a Special Development Order – which overrides local planning law.
As part of the plan, the Government was obliged to consider any implications under equality law.
After Friday’s ruling, it must make a new submission that satisfies the Equality Act.
Mrs Justice Lieven said: “The development raises very obvious issues, in particular relating to potential victimisation and harassment.
“Large segregated accommodation for male asylum seekers on the edge of town has obvious potential to create tensions within the community.
“There is a very significant difference between a development which is proposed to continue for two months and one for five years.
“Pressure on services, for example on the local GP, community health and possibly on the police, will be very much greater over a prolonged period. The potential for impact on community relations are wholly different.”
She said she did “not consider there was a proper consideration” of the Government’s duties under the Equality Act.
On Sunday, a court order will be issued which will determine the future of the barracks, which remains in use.
Care4Calais founder Clare Moseley said: “Once again Priti Patel has shown her lack of regard for the law and dignity of refugees.”
Labor’s shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said: “This is yet another example of the shambolic state of Priti Patel’s law-breaking Home Office.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We are pleased the court found in the Home Office’s favor on seven of eight grounds, including that our consultation on use of the site was lawful. The pandemic and have rise in dangerous boat crossings put enormous pressure on the system.
“We maintain Napier is necessary to meet our legal duty to provide accommodation to destitute asylum seekers, rather than rely on hotels costing almost £5million a day.”