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Police at welcome meeting for asylum seekers at Napier Barracks, Sandgate, Folkestone, after far-right plan to attend


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Additional reporting by Rhys Griffiths

Police briefly separated far-right groups from campaigners who had turned up to welcome the asylum seekers being housed at a barracks.

More than 200 people gathered outside Napier Barracks in Sandgate, Folkestone, which is currently being used as a holding site for people seeking asylum in the UK , at 11am.

Far-right protesters face off against those welcoming asylum seekers

One of those in attendance this morning was 65-year-old Edward Troup from Newchurch.

He said: "Britain has been built on waves of immigration, we have hundreds of years of being welcoming and it's sad that we have stopped being welcoming to people who can help make this a great country."

Asylum seekers inside the barracks were waving back at the crowds as crowds played Toy Story's You've Got a Friend in Me.

A small number of far-right protesters turned up just before midday and the groups were separated by police.

Far-rights protesters at the welcome meeting Picture: Rhys Griffiths
Far-rights protesters at the welcome meeting Picture: Rhys Griffiths

They were met with chants of "refugees are welcome here".

It is believed there was one arrest but it was not immediately clear on which side or for what reason.

Kent Police has been approached for more information.

Crowds dispersed at about 12.30pm.

A refugee holds up a 'we love you' sign Picture: Rhys Griffiths
A refugee holds up a 'we love you' sign Picture: Rhys Griffiths

The barracks has been opened by the Home Office and will provide a temporary home for around 400 adult men for up to 12 months.

To show support to the people in the barracks, the Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) has organised today's event along with charity Samphire and Churches Together Folkestone.

Bridget Chapman, from KRAN, explains: “It came about because we felt that there was a lot of local support for the new residents at Napier Barracks and we thought that people needed a way to actively display that support.

"We were getting messages all the time from people asking what they could do and we thought that this would be a really nice way to demonstrate all that goodwill.”

A post on Facebook yesterday revealed that supporters are expecting to see some members of opposition groups also attending the military camp.

A post by KRAN reads: "We are expecting some members of the far right to counter protest.

"The police are aware. Please do not engage with them in any way.

"We want to keep our focus entirely on a positive message of welcome."

Since Napier Barracks welcomed its first guests last month, members of far right groups have been filmed outside the gates.

Bridget Chapman from Kent Refugee Action Network. Picture: Alan Langley
Bridget Chapman from Kent Refugee Action Network. Picture: Alan Langley

Police have attended and some hateful messages have also been posted online.

One man, staying at the barracks, spoke to KentOnline this week and revealed he had been confronted by protesters.

He said: "For my own safety I prefer not to leave. If we go to the shop to buy something people will try and video me by force, invading my personal space. When I refuse by raising my hand, they yell that I'm going to attack them.

"Imagine living in such negative surroundings on a daily basis."

The man also said some service users have self-harmed because they are feeling so low.

Police at Napier Barracks last month, after a group of people gathered outside the gates appearing to protest that asylum seekers moved in. Picture from Youtube account: Xx T W xX
Police at Napier Barracks last month, after a group of people gathered outside the gates appearing to protest that asylum seekers moved in. Picture from Youtube account: Xx T W xX

At a cross-agency meeting, held to discuss the arrangements at Napier, Nick Wilkinson, prevent and channel strategic manager at Kent County Council, said it can be frustrating when "derogatory and hateful comments" are posted on social media.

He said far right influencers from outside Folkestone can attempt to influence the views of the community and that these comments can be "prejudicial, bias and contain misinformation".

Superintendent Amanda Tillotson, from Kent Police, said officers would attend the event to 'minimise possible disruption' and said enforcement action will be a 'last resort'.

She said: "We have been notified of a pre-planned event which will take place outside Napier Barracks in Shorncliffe on Saturday, October 17.

"Residents will see a well-resourced and proportionate policing response in the area to minimise possible disruption to the wider community.

"All attendees are also reminded of their responsibility to adhere to the latest government guidance on Covid-19.

Superintendent Amanda Tillotson said police will be present today
Superintendent Amanda Tillotson said police will be present today

"We will continue to play our part in ensuring these regulations are followed by engaging with attendees, explaining their responsibilities and encouraging them to adhere to the advice.

"Should it be necessary, enforcement action will be taken as a last resort."

A Folkestone and Hythe District Council spokesman said: "We are aware of the KRAN welcome event which has not been authorised by the council. We are working closely with Kent Police and other partners to provide support if necessary."

For more information about the event, visit the 'Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN)' Facebook page.

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone

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