Last week, a fire broke out at Napier Barracks in Folkestone. We still do not know the cause of the fire, several residents have been arrested and it is certainly plausible that the fire was started by some in protest at the terrible conditions in the barracks. Recently, we interviewed Simon from monitoring and migrant solidarity group Channel Rescue about their work, the present situation for migrants crossing the channel and the far right’s activism around the issue. In the summer of 2020 Channel Rescue launched with a huge fundraiser that raised nearly 20,000 pounds in one day. The COVID-19 lockdowns have disrupted activity, but once restrictions ease Channel Rescue will be back out on the coast to continue their work.
Just a day after we recorded the interview disturbing news broke of footage of a man being forcibly carried back into Napier Barracks. After the fire. the conditions remain dire. COVID-19 is still rampant in the barracks. Some people have been sleeping outside in freezing conditions to aboid catching the virus. Reports tell of overcrowding, inadequate food and patchy electricity. There has been some progress however, this week a judge ruled that one resident had to be transferred into alternative accommodation after a case was brought by leading human rights solicitors.
Channel Rescue is just one component of a network of migrant solidarity infrastructure that has to include anti-fascists. The far right, from Britain First, to Patriotic Alternative to Nigel Farage have been active in campaigns against asylum seekers, seen in the hotel invasions and demonstrations at Napier Barracks and Penally camp. There has been far right activism, but there has also been migrant solidarity, both from activists and from migrants. At some point this year, vaccinations and distancing will bring about a lessening of lockdown measures. But the far right will still be here, and we will still need to defend our solidarity from their incursions.
Listen to the full interview via the soundcloud here: