Solidarity protest with refugees in Kent in September 2020

Solidarity protest with refugees in Kent in September 2020   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Eric Segal, Kent Socialist Party

The dilapidated Napier army barracks in Folkestone became the home of 400 asylum seekers five months ago. They are desperate people in fear for their lives. Many have still not even had their asylum claims processed.

Jennifer Blair of human rights charity, Helen Bamber Foundation, said: “Doctors from our charity have assessed camp residents and are seeing a deterioration in people’s health and welfare. The longer people are kept in these conditions, the more desperate they are becoming.”

With news of a Covid outbreak at the camp, 100 asylum seekers who tested negative were removed. But 180 who tested negative and 120 who tested positive were left behind together, and told to isolate for a further ten days.

Those remaining fear that they are unable to self-isolate, because they are forced to remain in close proximity to each other in the barracks.

The despair and anger at the camp erupted on Friday, causing a major incident. Three fire engines were called to put out a fire in one of the dilapidated blocks.

Police in huge numbers blocked the roads leading to and from the barracks. I was threatened with a Covid fine by the police, while I was trying to report for the Socialist on the desperate situation developing.

The asylum crisis was compounded by recent government plans to end the Dubs agreement to take unaccompanied child asylum seekers. This is undoubtedly due to pressure from local councils like Kent.

The Socialist Party says take the contract for housing asylum seekers out of the hands of private profiteering landlords. Home secretary Priti Patel must resign.

Socialists and trade unionists must counter attempts of racists and the far right to exploit the issue of asylum seekers, and raise the demand for jobs, homes and services for all, not racism. Defend the right to asylum.

Emergency motion

Here is an edited version of an emergency motion Eric has proposed to South East Kent Trades Union Council. Please pass it in your union too.

We call upon the Home Office to immediately close down the Napier barracks in Folkestone – the detention centre housing four hundred asylum-seeking men – due to an outbreak of Covid-19. The Napier barracks is not fit for purpose.

These vulnerable people, who have fled war and torture, must now be moved to safe accommodation where self-isolation and appropriate social distancing is facilitated.

They must have access to medical treatment for their mental and physical health.

Their asylum claims must be processed within an acceptable time frame, and they should have full access to good quality legal advice and representation via legal aid solicitors.

We call on the Trades Union Congress (TUC), and its affiliated unions, to support the campaign to close Napier barracks, and other military sites, where asylum seekers are currently accommodated.