ICIBI inspection of the use of hotels and barracks as contingency asylum accommodation

Updated 23 July 2021: An inspection of contingency asylum accommodation:
HMIP report on Penally Camp and Napier Barracks (November 2020 – March 2021)

Details

The inspectors conducted visits to both sites, Penally Camp on 16 and 17 February and Napier Barracks on 17 and 18 February. The ICIBI also returned for a further visit to Napier Barracks on 4 March.

On 8 March 2021 the then Chief Inspector, David Bolt, published interim high-level findings. This report is the fuller final report that was sent to the Home Office. It reflects the department’s factual accuracy checks, and includes forewords from David Bolt, the previous Chief Inspector, and David Neal, the current Chief Inspector.

There is also a copy of a letter sent in March from David Bolt to the Director General of Asylum and Protection.


This link contains

Summary of findings for Napier Barracks and Penally Camp

Leadership and management
S1 Penally Camp and Napier Barracks were opened as contingency asylum accommodation in September 2020. The Home Office contracted Clearsprings Ready Homes (CRH) to manage the accommodation. CRH sub-contracted to other companies to provide services, and they in turn sub-contracted to other providers. Managers at both sites lacked the experience and skills to run large-scale communal accommodation.

S2 The Home Office gave CRH less than two weeks to make each site operational and did not adequately consult with local stakeholders, including health services, who needed to set up essential services for residents.

S3 In September 2020, Public Health England (PHE) had advised the Home Office that opening multi-occupancy dormitory-style accommodation at Napier was not supported by current guidance. Both PHE and, in relation to Penally Camp, Public Health Wales (PHW), expressed concerns to the Home Office about the COVID-19 safety of the accommodation. However, the sites were opened before PHW and PHE recommendations had been implemented. Given the cramped communal conditions and unworkable cohorting at Napier, once one person was infected a large-scale outbreak was virtually inevitable.

S4 The Crown Premises Fire Safety Inspectorate (CPFSI) informed us of serious concerns about fire safety at Napier that had not been fully addressed at the time of the inspection. The work recommended by CPFSI at Penally had been largely completed.

S5 The Home Office had been slow to recognise the impact on residents of prolonged stays in accommodation that was not designed or intended for long-term residence. The resources, skills and assurance systems required to support long-term communal accommodation were inadequate at both sites. On-site management structures were unclear, partly because of the multiple sub-contractors, and partly because of inadequate oversight by the Home Office, whose staff were rarely present at either site. There were fundamental failures of leadership and planning by the Home Office.

Safety
S6 We met many men who described feeling depressed and hopeless at their circumstances. In our resident survey, all those who responded at Napier and the vast majority at Penally said they had felt depressed at some point (56 resident surveys and 68 staff surveys were returned across both sites between 16 and 18 February 2021). At both sites, about a third of respondents said they had mental health problems; about a third of respondents at Napier said they had felt suicidal.

S7 We had serious safeguarding concerns in relation to Napier. Some residents who were identified as unsuitable to be located there remained on site for considerable periods; for example, in one case a resident identified by the Home Office as a potential victim of trafficking remained at the Barracks for a further 10 weeks before being transferred out. There was inadequate support for people who had self-harmed. People at high risk of self-harm were located in a decrepit building that was described as the ‘isolation block’; we considered it unfit for habitation. Residents who may have been children were also housed in the same block pending an age assessment; in one case we were told that this had been for up to two weeks.

S8 Residents at both sites were usually able to come and go. The exception was during the major COVID-19 outbreak at Napier, when over a hundred people were confined to their billets for approximately four weeks and unable to go outside except to use the mobile toilets or showers. They were warned that they might be arrested if they left the camp. In at least one case, a resident was forcibly returned to the camp by the police.

S9 At both sites, residents described feeling trapped in poor conditions because of the negative consequences of leaving; some told us they were afraid of jeopardising their only source of financial support; others were concerned that their asylum cases might be negatively affected.

S10 Residents at both camps told us that one reason they had not wanted to leave the camp was because they had been shouted at and intimidated by protesters and members of the public who objected to their presence. While Napier was close to a town (Folkestone), Penally Camp was isolated and the nearest town (Tenby) was a long walk.
Respect

S11 The environment at both sites was impoverished, run down and unsuitable for long-term accommodation. Cleanliness at both sites was variable at best and cleaning was made difficult by the age of the buildings. The accommodation contractor had made efforts to improve the facilities, for example by installing mobile shower and toilet units. At the beginning of March 2021, work was in hand at Napier to reconfigure the interior of some blocks into smaller living units. However, the age and general condition of the buildings made the costs of more substantial refurbishment prohibitive given the uncertainty over how long they would be required as asylum accommodation.

S12 At Napier, the number of residents had reduced from almost 400 in mid-January 2021 to 62 in mid-February. Since December 2020, the number at Penally had reduced to about 80, having been double this at its peak. The multi-occupancy billets at both sites were cramped, which made effective social distancing difficult. Before the numbers were reduced, residents told us that distancing was impossible. This was confirmed by our own observations of the available space and number of people who had been accommodated.

S13 Most current residents had been in Penally or Napier for several months. They did not know how much longer they would be there and this was a major cause of distress. They had been told initially that they would be there for only a few weeks. All the residents we spoke to who still remained in the camp said they did not understand why they were still there while others had been moved out. Some believed, mistakenly, that it was in some way connected to the Home Office view of the strength of their asylum claim and the fact that they had been in Penally or Napier would count against them. Many residents told us they had heard so many different things about their stay and moving on that they now did not trust anything they were told.

S14 Most residents were awaiting a substantive asylum interview for which they did not yet have a date. Home Office communication with them was poor and its staff had only recently started video meetings with residents. These did not provide information about individual asylum claims, which was what concerned residents most. The dearth of official information gave rise to misunderstandings and rumours, which had a negative effect on individuals and the collective mood. Managers did not systematically survey or consult residents to seek to understand their concerns or to keep them better informed.

S15 Most residents we spoke to said that on-site security and services staff were friendly and treated them with respect. All residents had a mobile phone throughout their stay and could access the internet, although wireless internet reception at Penally had been poor until recently. Residents had little to do to fill their time, a lack of privacy and a lack of control over their day-to-day lives. They had limited information about what would happen to them. These factors had had a corrosive effect on residents’ morale and mental health.

S16 While there were some, usually COVID-19-related, restrictions regarding access to the sites, local voluntary groups were supporting residents at both camps, including with clothing and other necessities. They were organising some activities. They were also signposting residents to services and facilitating access to legal representatives. The Migrant Help charity supplemented its contracted telephone helpline service with workers at both sites.

Preparation for leaving the accommodation
S17 Most residents had been in hotel accommodation before being moved to either Penally or Napier. Typically, they received little notice, often a matter of hours, of the plan to move them to one of the sites. They were not told why they were being moved and the same was true when they moved out of Penally or Napier to other accommodation, usually back to a hotel.

S18 Following our inspection, at the beginning of March 2021, Napier residents were informed that they would all be relocated by 2 April, but they were not told the location. Most did not believe it would happen and feared that, if there were new arrivals before they left, they could again become trapped by a new COVID-19 outbreak.

S19 There was little focus on helping residents to prepare for the next steps, but the visiting agencies and charities provided useful practical support for those who were moving on.

Read more here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1005065/An_inspection_of_contingency_asylum_accommodation_HMIP_report_on_Penally_Camp_and_Napier_Barracks.pdf


New Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration appointed

David Neal to begin his appointment on Monday 22 March 2021 as Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) for a term of 3 years.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has today (15 March 2021) welcomed the appointment of David Neal as the new Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration is an independent monitoring body sponsored by the Home Office that reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of the immigration, asylum, nationality and customs functions carried out by the Home Secretary, officials and others on her behalf.

Mr Neal takes up the role having formerly served as head of the Royal Military Police and Commander of the 1st Military Police Brigade.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said:

I congratulate David Neal on his appointment as Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration and look forward to working with him as he sets his inspection plan and makes recommendations to drive improvements across the Border, Immigration and Citizenship System.

Mr Neal will start his new role on 22 March 2021 and has been appointed on a 3-year term following a rigorous recruitment process in line with the Governance Code on Public Appointments.

David Neal said:

I am delighted to return to public service in such an important and high-profile role in an area which affects us all. I am honoured that the Home Secretary has appointed me as Chief Inspector, a role that is vital in monitoring and reporting on the efficiency and effectiveness of our country’s border and immigration functions. I look forward to leading the team and continuing to deliver a comprehensive and high-quality inspection programme.

David Neal’s appointment follows the tenure of David Bolt who steps down from the role of Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration on 21 March 2021.

Career

David Neal was appointed by HM The Queen as the Provost Marshal (Army) and commanded the 1st Military Police Brigade from 2016 until 2019.

He led the Royal Military Police through major reforms including the Service Justice System Review, and was responsible for Operation Northmoor, the Royal Military Police investigation into allegations of illegal killings by British troops in Afghanistan.

From 2015 to 2016 he was the senior Military Police and Gendarmerie officer in NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps.

From 2012 to 2015 he was responsible for the assurance and inspection of the United Kingdom’s detention facilities across the world, including in Afghanistan and on Royal Navy ships.

From 2011 to 2012 Mr Neal was an instructor and mentor at the Joint Services Command and Staff College educating and developing UK and international students from the military and civil service, in preparation for their assumption of high rank.

Mr Neal graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1994 having read English Literature at Bangor University. He is a Chartered Security Professional and Chartered Manager.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-independent-chief-inspector-of-borders-and-immigration-appointed


Updated 8 March 2021: An inspection of the use of contingency asylum accommodation – key findings from site visits to Penally Camp and Napier Barracks

During the week of 15 February 2021 inspectors from ICIBI and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) visited Penally Camp and Napier Barracks, spending two days at each site.

During the week of 15 February 2021, as part of ICIBI’s inspection of contingency asylum accommodation, inspectors from ICIBI and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) visited Penally Camp and Napier Barracks, spending two days at each site. The Independent Chief Inspector made a follow-up visit to Napier Barracks on 4 March.

HMIP is producing a detailed written report, which the Independent Chief Inspector will append to ICIBI’s full inspection report on completion of this inspection. As well as Penally Camp and Napier Barracks, ICIBI’s report will cover hotels and any other forms of contingency asylum accommodation. ICIBI’s report and recommendations will be submitted to the Home Secretary and published in the usual way. Meanwhile, the points below, which have been shared with the Home Office, provide a high-level overview of what inspectors found during their site visits. The headings are those typically used by HMIP.

ICIBI’s inspection of contingency asylum accommodation is ongoing and inspectors are continuing to gather, analyse and test written and oral evidence from the Home Office, the contracted third parties, national and local stakeholders, and asylum seekers who are or have been in contingency accommodation. While the public ‘call for evidence’ has closed, ICIBI is still keen to receive evidence, including the latest information, about contingency asylum accommodation in general and about specific sites, including Penally Camp and Napier Barracks.

Key findings

Leadership and management

  • Opening Penally Camp and Napier Barracks as contingency asylum accommodation, particularly doing so safely during a pandemic, presented substantial logistical and other challenges. Despite this, the Home Office gave its accommodation contractors less than two weeks to make each site operational.
  • Local stakeholders who needed to set up essential services for residents, such as healthcare, were not consulted in advance of the Home Office taking the decision to proceed. They were given insufficient time to prepare before the first asylum seekers arrived and there seems to have been little understanding or regard on the Home Office’s part of what impact this would have at the local level.
  • In September/October 2020, Public Health England had advised the Home Office that opening multi-occupancy dormitory-style accommodation at Napier was not supported by current guidance, and both they and Public Health Wales expressed concerns about the COVID-safety of the accommodation. Both sites were opened before Public Health Wales and Public Health England recommendations had been actioned.
  • Public Health England further advised that if the accommodation was to be used, the ability to isolate positive cases and/or establish effective cohorting arrangements was essential to containing any COVID-19 outbreak. Given the cramped communal conditions and unworkable cohorting at Napier, once one person was infected a large-scale outbreak was virtually inevitable. In our resident survey at Napier, none of those who responded felt they had been kept safe from COVID-19. At Penally, where overall numbers were lower and cohorts smaller, the vast majority still did not feel they were being kept safe from the risk of infection.
  • The Crown Premises Fire Safety Inspectorate (CPFSI) informed us of serious concerns about fire safety at Napier that had not been fully addressed at the time of the ICIBI/HMIP inspection visit. The work recommended by CPFSI at Penally had been largely completed.
  • While COVID-19 restrictions had meant that some asylum seekers had been accommodated at Penally Camp and Napier Barracks for much longer than had been originally envisaged, the Home Office had been slow to recognise the impact on residents of prolonged isolation in accommodation that was not designed or intended for long-term stays.
  • The resources, skills and assurance systems required to support long-term communal accommodation were inadequate at both sites:
    • On-site management structures were unclear, partly because of the multiple sub-contractors and partly because of inadequate oversight by the contracting companies.
    • Managers at both sites lacked the experience and skills to run large-scale communal accommodation.
    • The Home Office did not exercise adequate oversight at either site and Home Office staff were rarely present. There were fundamental failures of leadership and planning by the Home Office.

Safety

  • We met many men who described feeling depressed and hopeless at their circumstances. In our resident survey, all of those who responded at Napier and the vast majority at Penally said they had felt depressed at some points. At both sites about a third of respondents said they had mental health problems; about a third of respondents at Napier said they had felt suicidal.
  • We had serious safeguarding concerns in relation to Napier. There was inadequate support for people who had self-harmed. People at high risk of self-harm were located in a decrepit ‘isolation block’ which we considered unfit for habitation. Residents who may have been children were also housed in the same block pending an age assessment; in one case we were told that this had been for up to two weeks.
  • Residents at both sites were normally able to come and go. The exception was during the major COVID-19 outbreak at Napier, when over a hundred people were confined to their billets for approximately four weeks and unable to go outside except to use the mobile toilets or showers. They were warned that they might be arrested if they left the camp. In at least one case, a resident was forcibly returned to the camp by the police.
  • At both sites, residents described feeling trapped in poor conditions and feared that if they moved out they would jeopardise their only source of support and possibly their asylum cases.
  • Residents at both camps, especially Napier, told us they had been shouted at and intimidated by protestors and members of the public who did not want them there and that this was another reason they did not want to leave the camp. While Napier was close to a town (Folkestone), Penally Camp was isolated and the nearest town (Tenby) was a long walk.

Respect

Napier Barracks Images

  • The environment at both sites, especially Napier, was impoverished, run-down and unsuitable for long-term accommodation.
  • Cleanliness at both sites was variable at best and cleaning was made difficult by the age of the buildings. Some areas were filthy.
  • The accommodation contractor had made efforts to improve the facilities (for example, installing mobile shower and toilet units), and at the beginning of March 2021 work was in hand at Napier to reconfigure the interior of some blocks into smaller living units. However, the age and general condition of the buildings made the costs of more substantial refurbishment prohibitive given the uncertainty over how long they would be required as asylum accommodation.
  • At Napier, the number of residents had reduced from almost 400 in mid-January 2021 to 62 in mid-February. Since December 2020, the number at Penally had reduced to c.80, having been double this at its height. The multi-occupancy billets at both sites were cramped, which made effective social distancing difficult, and inspectors heard that this had been impossible before the numbers were reduced.
  • Most current residents had been in Penally or Napier for several months. They did not know how much longer they would be in the camp and this was a major cause of distress. They had been told initially that they would be there for a few weeks. Over the months, they had been told various things about their stay and about moving on and now did not trust anything they heard. Residents told inspectors they did not understand why they were still in the camp while others had been moved out, and some believed (mistakenly) that it was in some way connected to the Home Office’s view of the strength of their asylum claim, and the fact they had been in Penally or Napier would count against them.
  • Most residents were awaiting a substantive asylum interview but did not have a date for this. Home Office communication with them was poor. It had only recently commenced video meetings with residents. These meetings did not provide information about individual asylum claims, which was what concerned residents most. The dearth of official information gave rise to misunderstandings and rumours, which had a negative effect on individuals and the collective mood.
  • Managers did not systematically survey or consult residents.
  • Most residents we spoke to said that onsite security and services staff were friendly and treated them with respect.
  • All residents had a mobile phone throughout their stay and could access the internet, although WIFI at Penally had been poor until recently. They had little to do to fill their time, a lack of privacy, a lack of control over their day-to-day lives, and limited information about what would happen to them. These factors had had a corrosive effect on residents’ morale and mental health.
  • While there were some restrictions regarding access to the sites, mostly COVID-related, local voluntary groups were supporting residents at both camps, including with clothing and other necessities, by organising activities and signposting and facilitating access to legal representatives. Meanwhile, to supplement its contracted telephone helpline service, Migrant Help had arranged to have someone onsite at both sites.

Preparation for leaving the accommodation

  • Most residents had been in hotel accommodation before being moved to either Penally or Napier. Typically, they received little notice (a matter of hours) of the plan to move them to one of the camps and no explanation of why. The same was true of moving them from Penally or Napier. Most were moved back to a hotel. At the beginning of March 2021, Napier residents were informed that they would all be relocated by 2 April. They were not told to where. Most did not believe it would happen and feared that if there were new arrivals before they left they could again become trapped by a new COVID-19 outbreak.
  • There was little focus on helping residents to prepare for next steps, but the visiting agencies and charities provided useful practical support for those who were moving on.

Penally Camp Images

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/an-inspection-of-the-use-of-contingency-asylum-accommodation-key-findings-from-site-visits-to-penally-camp-and-napier-barracks


Submissions to David Bolt’s inspection of contingency units:

*Care4Calais response (Status Now signatory) : https://care4calais.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/C4C-response-to-the-ICIBI-asylum-accommodation-call-for-evidence_Redacted.pdf

*ILPA’s response: https://ilpa.org.uk/ilpas-response-to-the-icibis-call-for-evidence-an-inspection-of-the-use-of-hotels-and-barracks-as-contingency-asylum-accommodation-19-february-2021/

*Sheila Mosley’s response (member of QARN – Status Now signatory), detailing her personal submission – http://crowspirit.org.uk/home-office-use-of-contingency-units/


Updated 10 February 2021: Inspectors from ICIBI and HMI Prisons are visiting both sites during the week beginning 15 February.

The call for evidence will remain open for four weeks (until 19 February 2021).

In line with S.52(2) of the UK Borders Act 2007, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) has sought the assistance of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) with ICIBI’s inspection of contingency asylum accommodation, specifically Penally Camp and Napier Barracks, Folkestone.

HMIP’s involvement will enable ICIBI’s inspection to progress at pace, without having to divert resources from other ‘live’ inspections, and it will also mean that ICIBI can benefit from HMIP’s knowledge and experience of inspecting large institutional settings, particularly during the current pandemic.

Inspectors from ICIBI and HMIP are planning to visit both sites during the week of 15 February.

The inspection visits will comprise:

  • interviews with accommodation service provider staff and any other persons providing onsite services to the residents
  • interviews with residents
  • a review of relevant locally-held documentary evidence (e.g. local rules, information, risk assessments, complaints logs, etc.)
  • an assessment of the premises and onsite facilities
  • separate short surveys of staff and residents (distributed in advance of the visits).

Following the site visits, HMIP will produce a written report of its findings which will be appended to ICIBI’s inspection report for publication by the Home Secretary in due course. As with all ICIBI inspections, the Independent Chief Inspector will raise any matters requiring urgent attention with the Home Office, or directly with ministers, in advance of submitting his full inspection report.

The ‘call for evidence’ for this inspection closes on Friday 19 February 2021.


This is the original call:

25 January 2021: The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) has begun an inspection of the use of hotels and barracks as contingency asylum accommodation and is inviting anyone with relevant knowledge or experience to submit their evidence to chiefinspector@icibi.gov.uk.

The call for evidence will remain open for four weeks (until 19 February 2021).

This inspection will examine the use made of hotels and other forms of contingency asylum accommodation, including Penally Camp and Napier Barracks, since the beginning of 2020. It will focus on the roles and responsibilities of the Home Office and the accommodation service providers, and of other parties, in relation to the use of contingency asylum accommodation, including:

  • communication between the Home Office and the accommodation service providers, and with other stakeholders (for example, local authorities, health services, NGOs who provide support to asylum seekers), regarding the need for contingency asylum accommodation in particular areas
  • the process(es) for identifying potential contingency asylum accommodation and for testing and deciding about the suitability of specific sites, including with regard to Covid-19 safety
  • decisions about individual asylum seekers and their needs in terms of accommodation and other support, including information sharing, record keeping, oversight and review, particularly with regard to vulnerabilities and risks
  • communication between the Home Office and/or the accommodation service providers and individuals (“service users”) regarding their asylum accommodation, including any changes to that accommodation
  • the strategy for reducing the requirement for contingency asylum accommodation in the short- to medium-term (to the end of 2021-22) and longer-term (through to the end of the current Asylum Accommodation and Support Contracts)

ICIBI would welcome evidence in relation to any of the above points, but also in respect of any other matters that those with knowledge and experience of contingency asylum accommodation consider relevant.

Since the end of 2020, ICIBI has been speaking to and receiving evidence from a number of stakeholders, along with residents of both Penally Camp and Napier Barracks. There is no need for those who have already provided evidence to re-submit it, unless they wish to update or add to it.

Please Note: The Independent Chief Inspector is unable to assist with individual asylum claims or with complaints, but where anyone considers that the details of a claim or complaint are relevant they may include them in their evidence submission.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/call-for-evidence-an-inspection-of-the-use-of-hotels-and-barracks-as-contingency-asylum-accommodation


If you send evidence to this investigation, we would appreciate it if you feel able to share it with us, by emailing info@statusnow4all.org – and it would help if you used ‘ICIBI investigation’ in the subject line.