Monday 21 March 2022
On 11 March I visited Napier Barracks in Folkestone, along with the Leader of Folkestone and Hythe District Council, Cllr David Monk. We were given a tour of improvements made to the facilities for the three hundred asylum claimants who are resident there. The Barracks is being used as a temporary facility to accommodate men who have claimed asylum in the UK, and who have no underlying health conditions. Women, children and families are accommodated elsewhere by the Home Office. The maximum stay at the barracks is now ninety days, and significant improvements have been made to the facilities available. I am grateful for all of the work that has been done, particularly from local charities, to support the asylum claimants resident there, and to prepare them for life in the UK, should their claim be successful. The accommodation at Napier is basic, but it is warm and dry and provides decent meals, as well as proper laundry and cleaning facilities. As readers of this column will know, I was against the use of Napier Barracks as asylum accommodation, and I have not changed my view on that. I would like to see the end of the use of this temporary facility as soon as possible. However, along with the District Council, we said from the start that we would do all we could to provide practical support to the Home Office for use of the barracks, and to the asylum claimants who are accommodated there.
There has been an overwhelming response from Kent residents who have offered to open their homes to provide shelter to Ukrainians who have escaped the war in their country. Men of fighting age are required to stay in Ukraine to support their nation’s valiant resistance to the Russian invasion, and those leaving are overwhelmingly older citizens, as well as women and children. It is right that we do all we can to support the people of Ukraine, both in their war of self-defence, and to provide shelter to those that need it. The Russian military is increasingly targeting residential areas, including now in the west of the country, and we will never forget President Putin’s barbarous and unprovoked assault of this peaceful nation. We all hope that the current peace talks will succeed and that a ceasefire can be established. However, it must be clear that Putin has failed to gain any advantage from this campaign and that reparations would be due to Ukraine for the losses they have sustained.
I was saddened to learn of the passing of Sir William Fittall following a short illness. Sir William was a compassionate man who contributed greatly to public life throughout his career and was deeply committed to helping those experiencing hardship, particularly through his work as the Chair of Trustees at the Folkestone Rainbow Centre. He also served the Church of England, as Secretary General of the Archbishops Council. My thoughts are with his friends and family at this time of grief and loss. May he rest in peace.