Covid outbreaks at asylum-seekers barracks a major concern to UNHCR UK
While the reports, from multiple sources, suggest a range of troubling issues around conditions inside, what stands out is the high rate of COVID-19 infections, suggesting shortcomings in measures taken to safeguard the health of residents.
UNHCR UK understands that the use of the Napier barracks in Kent and Penally, Pembrokeshire, is meant to provide initial accommodation while normal community residence arrangements are made.
“Collective accommodation raises particular challenges. If used, it should be adapted to the needs of the residents,” said Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, UNHCR’s Representative in the UK. “During a pandemic, it is crucial that individuals have the ability to isolate and have sufficient access to hygiene products. They should be able to exercise a measure of control over their own environment.”
Placing too many people together in dormitories during a pandemic, with limited ability to isolate, and reports of insufficient washing facilities are particularly worrying, Ms. Pagliuchi-Lor added. In addition to being a necessity during a pandemic, access to some privacy is essential to retaining reasonable mental health.
“We hope it will be possible to swiftly return to what has so far been the prevailing accommodation method – dispersal in the community,” added Ms Pagliuchi-Lor. “This is the best way to cater to asylum seekers’ needs and to foster an understanding of their challenges among the general population.”