ASYLUM seekers continue to share dormitories at a scandal-hit military barracks that suffered a coronavirus outbreak earlier this year.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, together with Home Office officials, defended their "irresponsible" decision to continue using Napier Barracks in Kent to MPs on Wednesday, as they confirmed half of the people living there were sleeping in dormitories.

Nearly 200 people at the barracks in Folkestone, Kent, contracted Covid-19 during a major outbreak earlier this year.

In April, the Home Office declared the outbreak was over and insisted asylum seekers were staying in “safe, suitable, Covid-compliant conditions”.

But this month, senior health officials said it was still “difficult to envisage” the site being considered Covid-safe.

This came after six asylum seekers previously housed there won a legal challenge against the Government, as a High Court judge ruled their accommodation was inadequate.

The Home Office faced renewed calls to shut the site in the aftermath of the ruling, but has instead insisted that “significant improvements” have been made.

The department’s permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft told the Commons Home Affairs Committee that out of a now reduced 308 capacity, 103 were currently at the site, with 59 in communal sleeping areas.

There could still be up to 14 people per room, the committee heard.

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Since the outbreak, the cleaning regime, ventilation and signage had been improved at the site and anyone who was vulnerable was moved to alternative accommodation, Rycroft said.

Committee chairman Yvette Cooper said: “You guys just don’t learn lessons, do you?

“The court has already come to a really damning conclusion about your arrangements, as a result of which there may be significant compensation liabilities on the taxpayer, and you seem to be continuing to run up even more of them.

“It’s just astonishing, it’s irresponsible to people who are being put in Covid-unsafe situations. And it’s irresponsible for the taxpayer as well.”

But Patel said: “I just don’t accept that. It is wrong to say we are not learning lessons.”

Changes made had been “outlined pretty clearly”, she said, as she claimed: “There is an asylum crisis right now.”

Everyone at Napier had been offered the coronavirus vaccine, Ms Patel said, adding: “It’s an easy option to try and decry our accommodation facilities.

“We are absolutely doing our utmost to fulfil our statutory duties and responsibilities and obligations as a Government to house people in the right way, which we are doing, and in a safe way.”

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The court ruling related to a “particular moment in time” when “guidance has been shifting”, she added.

Patel and Rycroft also faced repeated questioning over what advice from Public Health England they had seen and considered, on using the barracks as asylum accommodation during the pandemic, and whether this included guidance against using dormitories.

Patel said: “We have always believed we were taking reasonable steps to give effect to advice.”

Rycroft insisted: “We are giving the Home Secretary proper advice.”

The Home Secretary also came under fire for delays in publishing a critical report on the barracks in full.

Chief inspector of prisons Charlie Taylor, who contributed to the findings, said in his annual report on Tuesday that he was “shocked as much by the shambolic governance and haphazard commissioning of the site by the Home Office as I was by the totally unsuitable accommodation”.

Initially findings were published in March. Taylor said the full report had been sent to Patel in May. Although it has since been obtained by members of the press during legal proceedings and subsequently reported on, the Home Office is yet to officially publish it.

This is expected to take place on Thursday.