Socialist Worker

Tories lock refugees in a coronavirus ‘breeding ground’

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2740

Refugees in the Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, are made to live in appalling conditions

Refugees in the Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, are made to live in appalling conditions (Pic: PA)


Asylum seekers held at an ex-army camp in Kent have protested against the appalling conditions they’ve been kept in during the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are still over 100 men living in Napier Barracks in Folkstone after a fire occurred after a protest on Friday. They have been left with no ­heating or electricity, while food and safe drinking water are not readily available.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she will pursue legal action against the protesters and that their actions were “deeply offensive to the ­taxpayers of this country”.

It’s the treatment of refugees that’s offensive. Refugees have now been detained in the camps following the fire.

It has been revealed that the Home Office had been using the camps to house asylum seekers following fears that better accommodation would “undermine ­confidence” in the asylum system.

This racist rhetoric is an excuse to ramp up the hostile environment against those most in need.

Pete, an activist with Kent Refugee Help, told Socialist Worker that local groups have tried to explain the risks of coronavirus to those in charge.

“In the midst of a pandemic the government has acted completely recklessly,” said Pete.

“It’s a critical situation. There’s already an ­existing problem that people are effectively in detention centres when they shouldn’t be.

“Detention ­centres and prisons have been an absolute breeding ground for the virus.

“The government is establishing new petri dishes of potential virus transmission by putting people in these camps.

“We’ve been raising this at every opportunity we’ve had in ­meeting with the South East Strategic Partnership for Migration for the last six weeks. Nothing was done because there were no mass infections.”

Exploded

But then the cases “exploded” two weeks ago.

“People in the barracks who had not tested positive are still in there,” Pete explained.

“There are empty hotels, and there is no logical reason why these can’t be used, especially with how appalling the sites are.

“People talk about the army ­barracks being ‘good enough for our boys’. But they are very old ­buildings. And these people haven’t signed up to be trained.

“In the communal areas people are hanging sheets to separate ­themselves. This isn’t a civilised way of treating people who are going through an asylum process.

“It’s not even within ­pandemic safeguarding protocols. It’s outrageous.”

Pete described the barracks as similar to detention camps, with refugees unwell with Covid-19 having no access to medical support.

He added, “It’s natural that people protested.

“They haven’t been kept informed of what’s going on. Since the fire, they’ve been placed in bubbles that comprise a whole block.

“Priti Patel sent a letter to the refugees berating them for not conforming to safe practice.

“It’s outrageous. You can’t stick someone in a ­situation like that then tell them to conform. She’s essentially telling them it’s their fault they got Covid.”

Join the Stand Up To Racism mobilisations across Britain and internationally on 20 March. For details go here Day of action on 18 February to build the events. Details here

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.