Five arrests over asylum centre fire in kent

Five men have been arrested after a fire at a former barracks where asylum seekers are being held.

Kent Police said one man was held on suspicion of assaulting a security guard and four in connection with the fire at Napier Barracks on Friday.

The Home Office had said a disturbance followed objections by asylum seekers to not being moved from the Folkestone site after a Covid outbreak.

On Saturday, the government said the barracks remained “calm”.

Det Ch Supt Andrew Pritchard said the five men were in custody and the force was working with the Home Office and fire service to “establish the full circumstances and identify any individuals involved”.

He said a team of officers remained at the scene as part of continuing inquiries.

Meanwhile, Folkestone’s council leader David Monk said about 300 asylum seekers were still at the barracks and called for them to be moved to hotels.

“One building has been virtually destroyed, but there is no intention to remove the people from the site,” he said.

He said he never believed it was sensible to put a large group of young men in one place, adding: “It is not a surprise to me that tensions have eventually overridden common sense.”

Power was cut off temporarily because of the fire and an electrician was restoring power on Saturday.

The canteen was vandalised and food could not be prepared on site, but food is being delivered and three meals a day are being provided, the government said.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins have said action will be taken against anyone found to be responsible.

Mr Collins has previously called for the barracks to close.

Mr Monk said criminal damage could not be condoned but said prosecutions would count against asylum applications, adding: “One of the tensions that really built up and underlies it all is they aren’t getting to know whether their application will be successful or not.”