Police in southeast England said Saturday that they have arrested five men following a disturbance at a former army barracks that has been housing around 400 asylum-seekers and where a fire broke out.
Kent Police said a 31-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a security guard in the wake of the fire at Napier Barracks in the coastal town of Folkestone on Friday afternoon.
Four others were arrested Saturday in connection with the disturbance and have also been taken into custody. Officers remained on site.
Police said they believe the fire was “started deliberately” and that it caused a “significant amount of damage” to one part of the site. No serious injuries were reported.
Police appealed for anyone with information, including mobile phone footage and photographs of the disturbance, to contact them.
Interior Minister Priti Patel said Friday that the “damage and destruction” at the barracks were “deeply offensive to the taxpayers of this country.”
The barracks has been dogged by accusations of poor conditions, and at least 120 residents reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 recently.
Patel dismissed suggestions that the conditions at Napier Barracks were inhospitable.
“This site has previously accommodated our brave soldiers and army personnel. It is an insult to say that it is not good enough for these individuals,” she said.
Charities working to help the asylum-seekers criticized Patel’s comments.
Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, wrote on Twitter that Patel is “playing with fire to make sweeping accusations against tens of people who have fled torture and sexual abuse and been warehoused by her in a COVID hotbed.”
“Her divisive, inflammatory and knee-jerk response will only fan the flames of prejudice and undermine the rule of law,” Sankey said.