A coalition of grassroots groups calls for an action against the Home Office housing of asylum seekers in ex-army barracks, which have been declared “unsuitable for human accommodation” by independent inspectors and “a living nightmare” by a former resident.
On 22nd May, a coalition of grassroots groups and organisations will gather at Napier Barracks to stand in solidarity with camp residents and demand that the UK Home Office close the camps. Join us to show the people held at Napiers Barrack they are not alone and they are not forgotten. Their struggle is our struggle — against racist borders and a violent state.
Napier Barracks in Kent hold some of the most vulnerable people, who escaped war and persecution, torture, trafficking 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 Home Office subcontractor, the infamous and disgraced Clearspring Ready Homes, has been using abandoned and dilapidated army barracks to lock up asylum seekers since September 2020. The barracks have been declared “unsuitable for human accommodation” by independent inspectors and a “living nightmare” by anyone who was forced to live in them.
A current Napier resident spoke out about their cruel treatment:
“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.”
The New Plan For Immigration
The UK government is purposely operating a system of ‘warehousing’’ asylum seekers in inhumane conditions and 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 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 former resident said:
“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.”
Napier has a lasting effect. A resident described how being in the camp affected his mental health and urged to consider the consequences:
“I want to urge everyone to pay attention to the residents’ well being. 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”
The brutality at Napier Barracks 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 is 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 (CRoP) union. With support from anti-racist groups and organisations, lawyers and journalists, as well as outspoken opposition to the camp from the Welsh government, 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.
A former Penally resident and CRoP organiser said:
As soon as we reached the barracks, we realised it’s pointless to ask for help from the racist, mean and untrained staff. We had to help each other. With support from organisations and barristers, we formed the union to highlight the inhumane conditions inside the barracks and make demands to close the camp. We took action as CRoP, because we knew the law was on our side and that we must act together to defend our rights.
Napier is different. Residents’ protests and hunger strikes in 2020 were ignored and the camp is again being populated with hundreds of asylum seekers. The Home Office and its contractors’ continued failure to carry out adequate medical and mental health assessment means that vulnerable men are re-traumatised and that health conditions go undetected and untreated in violation of the government duty of care.
This is no accident. Priti Patel’s Home Office is using Napier as a flagship for a 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.
Call to Action
Join us on Saturday 22 May to show Napier residents that they are not alone and they are not forgotten. Their struggle is our struggle – against racist borders and a violent state. Together we demand an end to this brutality.
On 22 May we will offer our care, friendship and practical solidarity. We will hear from residents about the conditions at the camp, bring legal support, provide community organising training, enjoy games and craft activities and share a meal to end the day. We will also meet some of the local groups organising on the ground and find out about ways to support their work.
Former Penally activists have now set up a new organisation, Life Seekers Aid. They said: We join Napier Residents in their call to shut down the barracks, like we did in Penally. United we stand to defend our rights, divided we fall and we shan’t allow this.
Life Seekers Aid offers Solidarity to Napier Residents and joins them to demand an end to the use of barracks as asylum accommodation, the new immigration plan and the hostile environment.
The message from Napier residents is loud and clear:
“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.”
On the Day
You can arrive at Napier by public transport from Folkestone or by car. We aim to organise transport from London and will share info soon on www.closethecamps.uk
Please bring picnic blankets, Halal / vegetarian food and non-alcoholic drinks to share, footballs, kites and board games.
To keep everyone safe and comfortable to join, please wear a mask and check with people about social distancing. For more information about transport options please see closethecamps.uk
The action is organised by:
CRoP (Camp Residents of Penally)
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Humans for Rights Network
Refugee Community Kitchen
Kent Anti-Racism Network
Women’s Strike Assembly
West London Welcome
Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement
Life Seekers Aid