INSPECTORS said they found "fundamental failures" at a military barracks used for housing asylum seekers in Pembrokeshire.

At Penally Camp, residents reported feeling depressed, trapped in poor conditions, and not protected from the risk of being infected with Covid-19, inspectors said.

An overview of their report, published today (Monday), follows inspections by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) of Penally Camp and Napier Barracks – another centre, in Kent, used by the Home Office for housing asylum seekers.

At both locations, 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.

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Inspectors said: “The environment at both sites, especially Napier, was impoverished, run-down and unsuitable for long-term accommodation.”

They added: "Cleanliness at both sites was variable at best and cleaning was made difficult by the age of the buildings. Some areas were filthy."

Responding to the report, a Home Office spokesman said service providers at both Penally Camp and Napier Barracks had been instructed to make improvements.

Residents at both sites were asked about their health and wellbeing.

“We met many men who described feeling depressed and hopeless at their circumstances," the inspectors said. "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.”

Residents at both locations reported being shouted at and intimidated by protesters and members of the public who did not want them there.

Health concerns over Covid-19 were also addressed in the inspectors’ findings, particularly around warnings from Public Health Wales and Public Health England at Penally Camp and Napier Barracks, respectively.

Inspectors said "cramped communal conditions" at Napier meant that "once one person was infected a large-scale outbreak was virtually inevitable".

They added: "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 inspectors went on to say that at both sites, residents described feeling "trapped in poor conditions".

"[They] feared that if they moved out they would jeopardise their only source of support and possibly their asylum cases," the inspectors added.

Naomi Phillips, director of policy and advocacy at British Red Cross, said: “These sites are completely inappropriate and inhumane as housing for people fleeing war, persecution and violence.

“The people we’ve spoken to in Penally have told us that they didn’t receive health screenings, were given little or no information about what was happening to them, and simply do not feel safe in the barracks.

“Our worst fears about the impact on people’s mental health have been realised.”

Following the publication of the inspectors' comments, a Home Office spokesman said improvements would be made at the camps.

“As the home secretary has set out, our asylum system is broken," he said. "That is why we will bring forward proposals which are fair but firm.

“During these unprecedented times we have met our statutory duty to provide asylum seekers, who would otherwise be destitute, with suitable accommodation and three meals a day all paid for by the British taxpayer.

“We expect the highest possible standards from our service providers and have instructed them to make improvements at the site."