Close The Camps UK: We are a coalition of grass-roots groups organising against the Home Office housing of asylum seekers in Napier Barracks, an old army accommodation in Kent that has been declared unfit for purpose. Join us on 22 May for a day of solidarity at Napier Barracks!
Hello friends, comrades, chosen family and fellow workers.
Hello siblings of colour, migrants and asylum seekers, LGBT and sex workers fam, poor and working class folks, Gypsy, Roma and Travelers, feminists, trade unionists, activists and all those who stand in solidarity with us to oppose state violence.
We are here today representing a small new coalition of groups and organisations working to expose a huge injustice. We are here speaking on behalf of friends who are unable to be here themselves.
Two hours away from where we are standing now, right outside Folkestone in Kent, our government is operating a camp, where vulnerable people, who committed no crime, are ‘warehoused’ in inhumane conditions. They are doing this in our name.
The Home Office subcontractor, the infamous and disgraced Clearspring Ready Homes, is using abandoned army barracks to lock up asylum seekers. These barracks have been declared ‘unsuitable for human accommodation’ by independent inspectors and a ‘living nightmare’ by anyone who was forced to live in them.
Napier Barracks in Kent holds some of the most vulnerable people, who escaped war and persecution, torture, traffiking and exploitation. Residents are forced to live in prison-like conditions, with no release date and in complete violation of their fundamental human rights.
The situation in the camp is desperate. The residents sleep 10 to a room and use shared facilities in direct breach of covid safety rules. In January, a covid outbreak affected 200 people and a suspected new covid outbreak is now again putting lives at risk. Napier is crawling with bed bugs, scabies and even TB. Residents suffer from anxiety, depression and some are suicidal. There is no adequate healthcare in the camp and no access to mental healthcare whatsoever.
A current Napier resident told us yesterday:
I feel I’m detained! I feel they’re punishing me. I can’t sleep at night and I’m scared of getting the virus because I live with 10 ppl in a room! There is no privacy and no respect.
Napier has a lasting effect. A former resident told us:
I want to urge everyone to pay attention to the residents’ wellbeing. I used to consider myself physically and mentally healthy before going to Napier barracks. I am now dealing with insomnia and anxiety. Just imagine what the ones who are victims of torture, war and persecution are experiencing. I totally felt that we are treated as less than human beings — when no one listened to our complaints, hunger strikes and protests about the dire conditions of the camp, about it being unhygienic and about the food being raw and inadequate. We were ignored when we protested against being put with nearly 28 other people in one block, sharing 2 showers and toilets together without privacy, decency and dignity. This led half of us to become ill with Covid-19.
This brutality is, of course, not new. It is part of a wider programme of state violence directed at anyone who doesn’t conform to the Tories’ notion of a ‘productive citizen’, with its explicit racism, classism and misogyny — this is extended to all of us who dare to dissent. The UK’s violent borders and cruel immigration system are causing ongoing harm, here and abroad, continuing the barbarity of empire and colonialism. As always, it is the state that inflicts the most violence on the most vulnerable people.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and its counterpart, the New Plan for Immigration, will give the state further powers to brutalise, oppress and silence us. We must oppose this violence in all its forms and everywhere – on the streets, at our schools and universities, at our workplaces and places of worship, and where it is most present – in our police, prison system, detention centres and border enforcement.
Napier was not the only camp our government used to hold asylum seekers. A barracks camp at Penally, west Wales was closed in March after residents launched a self-organised campaign as the autonomous Camp Residents of Penally union. With support from anti-racist groups and organisations, lawyers and journalists, they fought to close down Penally Barracks – and won!
They proved that when the people who are most affected, self organise to take radical action – they can defeat the brutality of the state.
Napier is different — residents’ protests and hunger strikes in 2020 were ignored and the camp will soon be filled again with hundreds more people. Priti Patel and the Home Office are using Napier as a flagship for their new and dangerous immigration policy, a massive extension to the existing hostile environment — this new bill is a statement of intent for a new regime of violence the Home Secretary is planning to inflict. Napier residents are collateral damage in this racist and harmful political power game.
This is a call to action.
On Saturday 22 May we will travel to Kent to stand in solidarity with Napier residents. We will show them they are not alone and they are not forgotten. We will offer our care and friendship, whatever material support we can share and any experience we can lend.
We will tell them: your struggle is our struggle – against racist borders and a violent state.
We would like to end with another message from a former Napier resident: Your words matter. Your actions matter. Be alarmed by this government’s use of army camps as asylum accommodations. Let us raise our voice together and say that we do not want to see human beings used as tools for political purposes. We have to tell the government that harming and sacrificing people’s wellbeing to send a political message is immoral and shameful.
See the website for more details: https://www.closethecamps.uk/
To keep everyone safe, please make sure you wear a mask and stay in the group you arrived with. Workshops and activities will run in small numbers and with social distancing.
Kent Refugee Action Network
LGSM (Lesbians & Gays Support the Migrants)
CROP (Camp Residents of Penally union)
Humans for Rights Network
Refugee Community Kitchen
SWARM (Sex Workers Advocacy & Resistance Movement)
Women’s Strike Assembly UK
Life Seekers Aid