Locals to welcome ‘new neighbours’ at military barracks housing migrants

Locals are to gather outside a military barracks in Kent where migrants are being housed to greet their “new neighbours”.

Dozens of well-wishers are to assemble in Folkestone on Saturday to welcome the asylum seekers who have been arriving in recent weeks.

Migrant charity worker Bridget Chapman, of the Kent Refugee Action Network, told the PA news agency: “It’s a really fantastic, inspiring collection of local community groups and national refugee support groups.”

With record numbers of migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats in 2020, the Home Office has struggled to find suitable housing for everyone.

Napier Barracks in Kent and Penally barracks in Wales have been converted to house asylum seekers, a move that has provoked controversy.

Around 400 people are expected to be housed at the Kent facility, more than at any other Home Office “initial accommodation site”.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
Migrant Channel crossing incidents

Ms Chapman added: “There’s a narrative that has been put forward by a group of people saying that these fellow human beings aren’t wanted in Folkestone and we know that isn’t the case.”

In order to show the strength of positive feeling different groups decided to turn up with messages of solidarity for their “new neighbours”, she added.

Ms Chapman stressed that social distancing would be maintained in an effort to keep everyone safe.

There are reports that counter protesters will also gather in the area.

Superintendent Amanda Tillotson, from Kent Police, said: “Residents will see a well-resourced and proportionate policing response in the area to minimise possible disruption to the wider community.

“All attendees are also reminded of their responsibility to adhere to the latest government guidance on Covid-19.

“We will continue to play our part in ensuring these regulations are followed by engaging with attendees, explaining their responsibilities and encouraging them to adhere to the advice.

“Should it be necessary, enforcement action will be taken as a last resort.”