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Welcome event is organised for asylum seekers at Napier Barracks in Folkestone


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A welcome event has been organised to show support to the people now living at Napier Barracks in Folkestone .

Last month, the military camp at Shorncliffe was transformed into an assessment and dispersal facility for 400 asylum seekers by the Home Office.

Napier Barracks in Folkestone is being used to house asylum seekers
Napier Barracks in Folkestone is being used to house asylum seekers

The government body, who is responsible for people seeking refuge in the UK, has seen a record number of people arriving on small boats having crossed the channel from France over the last few months.

During a cross agency meeting, it was revealed that due to Covid-19 and the constant arrival of asylum seekers , the Home Office is struggling to house everyone and is now taking 'every bed' it can.

The Ministry of Defence offered Napier Barracks for 12 months.

But the decision was not met with support from everyone, including MP Damian Collins who wrote two letters to the Home Office voicing his objections.

There has also been protests outside the barrack gates, where the guests were confronted and police called , and some hateful comments posted online.

400 people could stay at the barracks at one time
400 people could stay at the barracks at one time

Now, the Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) has organised an event along with charity Samphire and Churches Together Folkestone to show the support for the people staying at the barracks - who are all single, adult men.

Bridget Chapman, from KRAN, said: "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."

The welcome event will take place on Saturday, October 17 outside Napier Barracks, and will follow Covid-19 guidelines.

Attendees will arrive in groups of six maximum and are invited to bring home-made signs with messages of support. Cards will also be available for people wanting to write a message on the day.

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

Hythe and Folkestone Against Racism, Hythe United Reformed Church, Kent Christian Peace Activists, Folkestone Mosque and Folkestone and the Hythe Labour Party have also shown support for the event.

During the meeting last month , organised by Folkestone and Hythe District Council and attended by Mr Collins, Home Office staff, Kent County Council and Kent Police, it was heard that some comments online have been 'inciting hate'.

Nick Wilkinson, prevent and channel strategic manager at KCC, said that asylum seekers are 'vulnerable people' and that it can be frustrating when 'derogatory and hateful comments' are posted on social media which can be "prejudicial, bias and contain misinformation".

But Ms Champan says the negative comments about the arrangements at Napier do no surprise her.

She said: "Sadly I'm not shocked by negative comments as I'm aware there is some fear and suspicion which has been stoked by irresponsible politicians.

Bridget Chapman. Picture: Alan Langley
Bridget Chapman. Picture: Alan Langley

"This hasn't been helped by the lack of communication from the Home Office which has added to people's sense of alarm."

For more information about the welcome event, visit the Facebook page here.

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone

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