‘We wish we’d stayed in FRANCE’: Four Sudanese asylum seekers who crossed the Channel in a dinghy and are now being held in converted Army barracks in Kent complain they are ‘being kept like animals in pens’
- Four Sudanese asylum seekers moved to former Army barracks in Folkestone
- The men, who said they are in their 20s and 30s, all fled the war-torn Darfur
- They were plucked from the water by a Border Force patrol two months ago
Their journey spanned five countries and almost 3,000 miles but ended with the Border Force having to rescue them from a flimsy dinghy in the English Channel.
Now, having been placed in one of Britain’s first migrant camps, the four Sudanese asylum seekers say: ‘We wish we had stayed in France.’
They had been held at a taxpayer-funded hotel but were moved last week to a former Army barracks in Folkestone, Kent, now being used to house migrants as their asylum claims are processed.
This site and a second near the village of Penally in Wales have been heralded by some as a sign that Britain will no longer be a ‘soft touch’ for people traffickers.
The four Sudanese asylum seekers on the beach near the Folkestone camp where migrants began arriving last week
But human rights groups and migrants have criticised the camps as being like ‘prison’, while locals have raised concerns about the large influx of young men in their areas.
One of the four Sudanese asylum seekers, Amin Adam, said residents of the Kent camp – which has a 10pm curfew – were ‘kept like animals in pens’.
He added: ‘The food is no good. There is only one toilet. I should have made my application [for asylum] in France.
‘We have more rights here [in the UK] than in France. I want to go to school in England and work. But this place [the barracks] is no good.’
The four, who said they are in their 20s and 30s, all fled the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan.
They first made their way to Libya, before travelling by boat to Malta, then Sicily, and on through Italy to arrive at the remnants of the notorious Jungle encampment in Calais, northern France, at the beginning of the year.
They said they met for the first time in Calais and spent around seven months sleeping rough before attempting the Channel crossing in a dinghy they found on the beach.
Adam, Mohammed, Hussain Abu-Bakr Mohammed and Yassin Mohammed were plucked from the water two months ago by a Border Force patrol as water cascaded into their vessel.
The Napier Barracks (pictured) in Folkestone, Kent, will be temporarily used to house refugees
A group of men sit outside with their face masks at the Napier Barracks in Folkestone
After being processed, they were sent to a hotel in Slough, Berkshire, to await the results of their asylum applications. Last week they were among the first to be placed at two Army facilities that will temporarily be used to house migrants.
The Home Office said the use of sites such as former barracks could save taxpayers up to 50 per cent of the cost of hotel placements. It comes amid an influx of Channel crossings – almost 7,000 this year alone – and a lack of space as a result of the pandemic.
Both camps have attracted protests from far-Right groups, while the Stand Up To Racism West Wales campaign said a former military facility is a ‘completely inappropriate’ place to house those who had fled war.
Another asylum seeker moved to the Folkestone camp said he was given 30 minutes’ notice to leave his accommodation at a hotel in Chiswick, west London.
‘I haven’t slept for five days,’ the former computer engineering student added. ‘There is too much stress. It’s like a prison.’
He said he feared there would soon be hundreds in the camp and ‘I am worried about Covid’.
There were clashes between far-Right and counter-protesters at the camp in Wales last week but yesterday messages of support were tied to the barracks and clothes left at the entrance.
A government spokesman described the camps as ‘contingency accommodation’, adding: ‘We have worked tirelessly… to provide asylum seekers, who would otherwise be destitute, with suitable accommodation.’