Priti Patel

Priti Patel   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Eric Segal, Kent Socialist Party

Today I received a letter from the Home Secretary Priti Patel. The letter is a weak and pathetic attempt by the home secretary to deflect criticism away from her government’s negligent policy of confining over 400 people seeking asylum to the derelict Napier barracks in Folkestone. This is a policy that is fuelled by the need to cut costs and make the weak and vulnerable pay for the pandemic.

The subsequent and predictable outbreak of Covid-19 in the overcrowded camp infected over one in four of the inmates. This resulted in the forcible incarceration of 400 desperate and vulnerable people locked behind barbed wire fences and gates secured by the police.

The tensions inside the camp following the locking of the gates led to inevitable demonstrations and a significant police presence following a fire in one of the buildings on Friday 29 January.

The letter from Home Secretary Patel is an admission of guilt over the negligent asylum policy of this government. This has led to four suicide attempts by asylum seekers at Napier barracks.

The demonstrations and fire have caused an outburst of anti-asylum seeker and racist comments on social media demanding that the asylum seekers should be sent back across the channel or worse. This resentment is fuelled by suffering in substandard rented accommodation, inadequate council housing, low-paid jobs and failing public services. The letter from the home secretary failed to answer concerns caused by the austerity policies of successive governments.

The government is finally being taken to judicial review in court over their negligent handling of the accommodation of people seeking asylum. However, anti-asylum seeker and racist sentiments must be countered by a mass programme of building council houses, jobs at trade union rates of pay with proper training for young people, and for the provision of public services. With all this we say defend the right to asylum. We demand the resignation of home secretary Priti Patel.