British Secretary of State for the Home Department Priti Patel, shown here in September 2020, said a fire set at a center for asylum seekers was "deeply offensive" to British taxpayers. Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE
Jan. 30 (UPI) -- British authorities say five men have been arrested after a fire at a center where asylum seekers are being held.
According to Kent Police, one man was held on suspicion of assaulting a security guard and four in connection with a Friday fire at Napier Barracks, a decommissioned military barracks that houses an estimated 300 to 400 people seeking asylum in Britain.
No injuries were reported.
Officials said the barracks remained "calm" Saturday, and police said they are working with other authorities to "establish the full circumstances and identify any individuals involved."
Britain's Home Office, which oversees immigration and security in the country, said there had been a disturbance at the site after asylum seekers objected to not being moved from the site after a COVID-19 outbreak.
The outbreak infected at least 120 people, and the charity Care4Calais wrote on Facebook Friday that many residents are still "very sick" with the virus."
"They appear to have been completely abandoned by the authorities," without food, drink or heating, Care4Calais wrote.
The charity hascalled for the closure of the facility, and at least one community leader in Folkestone, the southeast England port community where the barracks is located, has asked that residents be moved to hotels.
"One building has been virtually destroyed, but there is no intention to remove the people from the site," said Folkestone council leader David Monk.
He also said he never believed it was a good idea to put a large group of young men in one place, saying, "It is not a surprise to me that tensions have eventually overridden common sense."
British Secretary of State for the Home Department Priti Patel wrote on Twitter Friday that the fire is "deeply offensive to the taxpayers of this country who are providing this accommodation while asylum claims are being processed."
"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," Patel wrote. "I am fixing our broken asylum system, and will be bringing forward legislation this year to deliver on that commitment."