Published: 11:05, 28 January 2021
| Updated: 19:16, 28 January 2021
Activists have today thrown fake blood at the gates of Napier Barracks - where hundreds of asylum seekers are living - in protest over the conditions there.
The anonymous group of human right activists dressed in white boiler suits and masks and erected posters addressed to Home Secretary Priti Patel outside the military camp in Folkestone.
The boards read: "Protect human rights. Close Napier now. Priti Patel there will be blood on your hands. #SolidaritywithNapier."
One man has since been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and remains in custody.
Napier Barracks was opened in September by the Home Office to provide temporary accommodation to 431 men who are seeking asylum in the UK.
Since then a number of protests have been held outside the barracks, from both people welcoming the asylum seekers and those who oppose the arrangements.
In recent weeks, many of the service users have taken to sleeping outside and going on hunger strike to demonstrate against the reportedly cramped and unhygienic living conditions.
In addition, Covid-19 has spread through the barracks and it is claimed more than 100 people have tested positive for the virus.
To help maintain social distancing, the Home Office announced it would move 100 service users into hotels earlier this week.
It followed the publication of an open letter from the asylum seekers to the British public in which they said they felt like they were being detained.
Two petitions have also been set up calling for the closure of the facility, and MPs have also spoken out about their wish for it to shut.
A statement from the protesters today says: "We took this action today to amplify the message of the residents of Napier barracks, and of the community to demand the complete closure of this inhumane camp.
"The government’s decision earlier this week to move a number of people temporarily from the site, was little more than an inadequate attempt to relieve some of the pressure being put on them from all angles to close the camp.
"We cannot gather en-mass during these challenging times, so we cannot show the immense support and solidarity there is for these vulnerable people in such a perilous and grave situation.
"But still we must find a way to make our collective voice and appeal heard.
"We have tried asking nicely.
"We signed petitions and wrote letters... but the situation is extreme; these people are desperate and they are being gravely ignored.
"This dramatic action beseeches the government to act now and close Napier Camp."
Bridget Chapman, from the Kent Refugee Action Network - which previously held a welcome meeting outside the barracks - said she is not surprised people are taking 'drastic action'.
She said: "We have seen from our social media channels and correspondence that Napier Barracks is an issue that people feel very strongly about.
"Although it is clearly unsafe for anyone to be kept in such dangerous conditions any action to protect residents seems glacially slow and people don't feel their voices are being heard.
"We're not surprised that people have felt the need to take more drastic action. This is an emergency. The barracks need to be closed and those inside need to be moved immediately to safe and appropriate accommodation."
A spokesman for Kent Police said: "Kent Police was called following a report of a protest in Shorncliffe, Folkestone at 8.10am on Thursday, January 28.
"Officers attended and a 36-year-old man from the Dover area was arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage. He remains in custody."
The Home Office said: “Any form of vandalism is completely unacceptable and those found breaching lockdown restrictions will be fined.
"Those at Napier have generally come from France by small boat. This journey is not only dangerous but unnecessary – France is a safe country with a well-functioning asylum system. Migrants should not make this journey in the first place.
“These sites have accommodated soldiers and army personnel in the past - it is offensive to say that it is not good enough for asylum claimants. It is safe, suitable, Covid-secure accommodation where asylum seekers receive three meals a day, all paid for by the taxpayer.”