A fire has broken out at army barracks where the government is holding hundreds of asylum seekers.
Dramatic footage from the scene shows large plumes of smoke billowing into the sky at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, where a fire has started at the facility.
Dozens of emergency service workers are currently on scene as huge flames can be seen engulfing at least one of the buildings.
The barracks have been used by the Government to house 400 asylum seekers since September last year despite concerns about the conditions.
Reports from the scene have suggested the fire was started as a riot broke out at the facility this afternoon after residents were reportedly told there were to be no more transfers from the barracks despite an outbreak of Covid.
Migrant charity Care4Calais said on Twitter: ‘A fire has broken out and fire engines have been called to Napier Barracks in Folkestone following an upsetting afternoon for the residents.’
Others at the scene have said residents staying at the barracks are terrified and likened the area to a ‘war scene’.
Dramatic footage shows Napier barracks, where Government is holding hundreds of migrants in Folkestone, Kent, on fire
The fire was reported to Kent fire and rescue service shortly after 2pm this afternoon and at least eight crews are on scene
People living in the surrounding area are advised to keep their windows closed. Pictured: Medics and police officers on scene
Pictures from the scene show dozens of emergency services in attendance including police and ambulance crews.
A spokesman for Kent Fire and Rescue Service said: ‘We have been called to assist Kent Police at the Napier Barracks in Folkestone, following reports of a fire.
‘Eight fire engines have been sent to the scene.
‘People living and working in the surrounding area are advised to close their windows and doors as a precaution, due to smoke coming from the incident.
‘People are also asked to avoid the area.’
Kent police are also reportedly dealing with the incident and have been contacted for comment.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service say they were contacted by police shortly after 2pm with reports of a fire and are still on scene
Pictures from the scene show large flames emerging from at least one building and huge plumes of smoke billowing into sky
Kent police with riot helmets on while attending the incident at Napier Barracks, in Folkestone, this afternoon
A petition to close the camp in Kent and a similar facility in Wales has racked up more than 18,000 signatures after it was launched a week ago.
Charities have repeatedly raised concerns about conditions inside Napier Barracks and Penally Barracks in Pembrokeshire since they were commandeered by the Home Office last year.
The petition by Freedom from Torture to empty the barracks in Kent and Wales and close them down racked up more than 10,000 signatures in less than two days.
A spokesman for the Kent Refugee Action Network told Kent Online: ‘We don’t yet know exactly what has happened but what we do know is the barracks are unsafe with many cases of Covid being confirmed, and positive cases sharing dorms with those who had tested negative.
‘Those inside were at risk and becoming more and more desperate at the lack of action.
‘It should have already been emptied and closed down.
Police with riot helmets standing by people on scene claim residents at the barracks are terrified and likened it to a war scene
Kent fire crews have been battling the blaze since 2pm this afternoon and are being assisted by Kent police
Charities have been calling for the barracks to be closed over concerns regarding the conditions residents were facing
‘Had the Home Office heeded the calls to act urgently we would not be in this position now.
‘We hope all residents, staff and emergency workers responding to the situation are safe.’
Bella Sankey, director of charity Detention Action, echoed calls to shut the barracks ‘before they are engulfed by tragedy’.
Over the weekend, it emerged that a coronavirus outbreak had ravaged the Kent site with 120 thought to have tested positive.
A number of migrants were reportedly evacuated from the site this week and taken to alternative accommodation in a bid to control the outbreak.
But some migrants who had been left behind and are still negative claimed they were being forced to share rooms with Covid-positive patients.
There are reports of asylum seekers carrying out hunger strikes in protest against the ‘unbearable conditions in the camp’, which is said to include 34 people sharing one shower.
There have been further reports of suicide attempts in the Army barracks as mental health among its occupants deteriorates.
The Home Office, which took over the site last year, insisted the accommodation in Kent is ‘safe, suitable, (and) Covid-compliant’.
At the weekend the department said that a number of asylum seekers were being moved from Napier Barracks ‘temporarily’ into self-isolation facilities.