There can be no clearer symbol of Priti Patel’s inhumanity and the current government’s callous disregard for the safety and wellbeing of asylum seekers than the barbarous indifference and systemic repression inflicted upon the residents of the Napier Barracks, Folkestone, Kent. And in counterpoint, there can be no cheering symbol of ongoing and increasing resistance than their sustained response and unity and the Festival of Solidarity to close the camps.
On May 22, 2021 over three hundred residents of the now High Court condemned Napier Barracks gathered on the fields opposite the decrepit and overcrowded buildings they are housed in. They were jined by hundreds of activists and other supporters who had travelled by the coachload from across the UK to protest the criminal conditions people are forced to live in by Priti Patel’s hostile environment.
Despite changeable weather, there was music, dancing and sports in the plenty. Participants engaged in traditional Kurdish dancing, whilst others broke out into spontaneously organised games of football and cricket. A number of marquees were setup by volunteers, providing a free shop of much needed clothing that frequently emptied, a stall providing legal advice, a banner making station for creating slogans of support and a herbalist stall that provided some people their first ever taste of nettle soup, as well as a wealth of information of local forage. Self-defence classes were lead by female volunteers. The atmosphere of militant, joyful self-organisation abounded.
A stain of fascist sympathisers lurked around the edges of the otherwise joyful and untroubled event and were peaceably driven off after having their camera removed from them and a platoon of banner waving participants forcing them to flee to the safety of the nearby coppers. Analysis of the footage found they had been counting the number of people of colour down at the Dover docks, a troubling discovery.
Napier Barracks received calls to close after being determined unlawful only 2 days ago by the High Court. The inhumane conditions have already caused coronavirus to infect nearly half the residents, a fire to break-out destroying one of the buildings, and legal action by several residents that their human rights are being breached – which they won.
Residents in the facility are now being told that their applications ‘will be impairred’ if they speak out, as calls to close the centre continue to mount. freedom News calls for Napier Barracks to be closed for the safety and dignity of those who are forcibly and unlawfully being detained there. We urge all our readers to join the struggle to rehouse their residents and permanently close the camps.
All photos by kind permission of Fields of Light Photography.