Five people were arrested on suspicion of “racially-aggravated” public order offences aimed at asylum seekers at Napier Barracks earlier this month, prompting concern about the safety of those living in the camp.
Local residents are alleged to have climbed over the fence during the incident. No one was injured.
Police said officers attended North Road in Folkestone, where the former military camp – which is currently holding more than 200 asylum seekers – is located, following a report of a “disturbance” at 10.15pm on 7 June.
Five people were arrested on suspicion of “racially-aggravated public order offences”, Kent Police said in a statement provided to The Independent.
Two men, aged 20 and 22 from Folkestone, have been released on bail until 6 July 2021. The other three people, two men and a woman, were released without charge.
Humans for Rights Network, a charity operating in the area, said an asylum seeker who was present at the incident declined to speak out publicly for fear of reprisals, but had alleged to them that he was subjected to verbal racial abuse as he attempted to enter that camp.
He said he was then subjected to an attempted physical attack by one of the individuals who climbed over the fence surrounding the camp, according to the charity.
Napier Barracks was repurposed into asylum accommodation by the Home Office last September. There was a major Covid outbreak at the camp in January which prompted a decision to gradually empty the site, but new residents started being moved in on 9 April.
The High Court ruled earlier this month that the site failed to meet the “minimum standard” and that the Home Office had acted unlawfully in placing people there – but it remains open, with the department saying it is considering “next steps”.
Maddie Harris, of Humans for Rights Network, said the charity had received a number of reports by residents of the barracks of racial abuse shouted at them both when they are inside the camp and in the nearby town.
Responding to the recent incident, she said: “We are witnessing yet another illustration of how accommodating men in this camp is unsafe.
“We are deeply concerned that unless action is taken to close Napier Barracks and accommodate these men in suitable community-based accommodation incidents of this kind will continue causing serious physical and psychological harm.”
Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, which supports asylum seekers living in the camp, said: “People housed in Napier are often traumatised and these incidents make them feel even more scared and vulnerable. This government must take responsibility for the tensions it is creating and urgently rethink the way it treats vulnerable refugees."
A Home Office spokesperson said it would be inappropriate to comment while police proceedings were ongoing, but that the department worked closely with Kent Police and Clearspring, the company it contracts to manage Napier Barracks, over any reported incidents.
They added: “The wellbeing of asylum seekers is taken extremely seriously, and all necessary and legal steps are taken to protect people in our care.”