REFUGEES are being held in office space in Kent, with as many as 56 women and children crammed into a single room, sleeping together in shocking conditions putting them all at risk of contracting Covid-19.
The Home Affairs MPs Select Committee has produced a damning report which exposes the illegal practice of holding refugees in offices until accommodation can be found.
Legally no person should be detained by Border Force for more than 24 hours, however the committee visited the Atrium facility where the Home Office confirmed that one refugee was held there for ten days.
The Atrium was described by Chair of the Committee, Yvette Cooper as ‘essentially an office space with a large central room and several adjoining offices’.
Refugees fleeing war, poverty and persecution, after risking their lives crossing the Channel, on reaching the UK in flimsy boats are being treated worse than criminals and are being held in dangerous overcrowded conditions, as if they were contraband cargo held in storage.
In a letter to Tory Home Secretary Priti Patel, Cooper wrote: ‘Most people were sitting or lying on a thin mattress that covered almost the entirety of the floor, including the aisles between seats.
‘Sharing these cramped conditions were many women with babies and very young children alongside significant numbers of teenage and young adult men.’
The committee warned that because of the stuffy conditions with little social distancing there is the real possibility of a Covid-19 outbreak.
In fact just down the road at the ex-army camp – Napier barracks in Folkstone, Kent – there was a Covid-19 outbreak. At Napier barracks there are more than 265 residents sleeping in dormitories of up to 14 people. Nearly 200 people at the barracks contracted Covid-19 during a major outbreak earlier this year.
In June a high court ruling found the Home Office had acted unlawfully when deciding the former military camp was appropriate.
Lawyers and human rights organisations – including the Red Cross and Liberty – have called for Napier Barracks to be shut down. However the Home Office insisted on continuing to use the site.
Refugees are being held in appalling conditions at detention centres across the country and there has been a sharp increase in the deaths of refugees in detention centres in the UK in the last 18 months.
51 people have died in Home Office asylum seeker accommodation in the last five years.
At the heart of the refugee crisis is imperialism’s drive to war. The leaders of France, the US and the UK and other imperialist nations bombed, invaded and occupied countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
Refugees that survive the imperialist bombing, flee for their lives, survive the dangerous crossings in flimsy boats, but are incarcerated on arrival.
At least 57 people died after a refugee boat capsized off the Libyan coast on Monday taking the total death toll of those drowning in the Mediterranean sea in 2021 alone almost 1,000 – four times as many as in the same period last year.
The action that Home Secretary Patel and the Tory government have launched is to declare war on those attempting to cross the Channel in search of a better life. Rather than rescue boats, the Tories are sending gun boats – the Border Force backed up by the navy to turn boats back to France.
Patel has given the French state £54 million to beef up their security forces to patrol the beaches of France and arrest any refugees attempting to launch boats. All of this is contained within the Nationality and Borders Bill, a vicious piece of legislation which outlines a barrage of measures attacking refugees and asylum seekers.
The attitude of the working class is the polar opposite. There has been march after march, demonstration after demonstration of hundreds of thousands of people demanding that refugees are welcomed into the UK and the EU and given everything they need to live.
Workers in the EU and the UK must take action to defend refugees. The Tory government and its vicious immigration policy must be brought down with a general strike. The only way to end the refugee crisis is to put an end to imperialism and imperialist wars.
A workers government must be put in that will make provision that all refugees will have a job, a home, an education and a peaceful life.
This is the only way forward.