Kent Bylines has received a press release from Britain First, including a link to a video. The political party has asked for us to share this widely. We’ve viewed the video and the press release, and it raises a number of issues that are worth addressing, but first let’s look at what the group says.
The Britain First press release verbatim
“A contingent of Britain First South East activists held a flash demo outside Napier Barracks migrant camp, Folkestone, Kent, attracting a lot of support from passing motorists.
During the protest, Napier Barracks was like a Butlins for migrants, a holiday camp with hundreds of migrants from across Africa and the Middle East walking in and out without a care in the world.
Britain First holds flash demo outside migrant camp
Britain First chairman Ashlea Simon was told to “Go home!” by some of these migrants, an incident which made her laugh.
Britain First has big support in the local area
Local residents have a catalogue of complaints about the camp at Napier. This is a truly shocking situation, and you will see why when you watch the video report from today.”
At the end of the video is the notice: “Please share this video to help defeat Big Tech censorship.”
If readers wish to view the video, please use your search engine to access the Britain First site. Some readers may well ask, “What on earth are the editors doing, giving any publicity whatever to such a far-right group?” So, let’s explain.
Big Brother is watching you
First, this group does indeed suffer censorship by big tech. In response to public concern in many countries Facebook (now Meta) have put more effort into removing hateful content from their sites. Increasingly legislation is enforcing this in the EU, with new rules this year, and probably in the UK with the online safety bill going through parliament now, likely to be made law in 2023.
Furthermore, Kent Bylines has actually experienced how vigilant the government is about possible attacks on migrants. When we published the last article about a Britain First group making a film outside an Ashford hotel where migrants are staying, we got an email from someone in the Home Office asking us to take down the photo of the hotel in case this leads to harassment of the migrants. So, we substituted another picture instead which matches our critique of the confused patriotism endemic in this group.
“Their logo shows a lion roaring at, or swallowing (?), the St George Cross, part of the Union Jack. Symbolic of how fervent patriotism and desire for Empire can swallow Christian values.”
However, we live in a democracy, so as citizen journalists we need to scrutinise exactly what are the arguments of our fellow citizens about migrants coming into Kent in small boats across the Channel. Paul Golding, a leading activist of Britain First in the south east, has compiled the voiceover to this video clip of migrants at Napier barracks Folkestone.
His first insinuation is that the camp is “like Butlins”. Like a holiday camp indeed!
Actually, I was rather relieved to see from the pictures that the camp did not look too bad. Some healthy-looking young men were playing ball games in a yard. Readers who have followed Kent Bylines from the beginning may recall that one of our articles in February 2021 concerned the fire at Napier barracks and the predicament of the migrants there under Covid restrictions, and the fact that a photographer was prosecuted for trying to publicise this.
(So note, Paul Golding, the authorities discourage publicity at Napier, whatever the political proclivities!).
…but are these migrants illegal?
Anyway, from these pictures the men looked fit and healthy this month in 2022. Some of them were passing through the gate probably to go on shopping trips (phone cards are the most likely urgent and constant need). A Britain First female activist was trying to engage with them. She asked several where they came from.
The answers were a variety of conflict zones: Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, South Sudan. One of them, when asked why he did not respond, said to her “Go home”. She responded to this with outraged amusement. A migrant telling ME to go home? This shows the mismatch of perspectives. A war-cry of the far right is “go home” to refugees (thereby missing the fact that for many their homes are already destroyed in the violence raging in their home countries). For the refugees, most from Islamic countries where women are confined to the home, perhaps it is surprising to see a woman outside the home campaigning. Or perhaps they just wanted her to stop asking questions.
Golding then expands on his argument that these migrants should not be getting so much help, staying in such premises for free. The money should apparently be going to veterans. This remark is from the far-right mood music of patriotism. Support the veterans who fought in the nation’s wars. We are patriots who oppose migrants. So, to see the merits of this argument, some checking up is necessary to see what UK veterans actually do receive. Try googling this.
How well are our veterans treated?
There is a special veterans’ category in the UK benefits list, as well as extra help with housing and school fees for those who serve abroad. There are also several charities that focus on veterans and, judging by the numbers of us who wear poppies in November, there is still an annual flow of donations to the British Legion. Here in Ashford, the retired Gurkhas are much in evidence, well housed and doing useful jobs all over town. It does not look to me that our veterans are suffering.
I then looked up Golding on Wikipedia. It shows more than a decade of his far-right activism especially anti-mosque demonstrations. He has also served time in prison for incitement. Donald Trump retweeted a particularly offensive tweet and then Twitter was forced to shut down Golding’s account. And now, there he is outside Napier trying to stir up anti-migrant rage.
The video states that local people are against the migrants, but there are no clips of their views and no evidence given. The “catalogue of complaints” mentioned in the press release may well date back to the events during lockdown, and may include those against the use of Napier barracks as below-standard accommodation, ie not “Butlins” at all, and in need of an upgrade maintenance.
Take your demo to the Home Office, Golding
If one follows through the Britain First line of argument, it is that migrants should not be housed decently. They should be deterred by painful experiences as soon as they illegally arrive on our shores. Deterrence is also the argument behind the home secretaries’ Rwanda scheme. So, does it work? It has not so far. There is no sign of a lessening of the numbers of refugees taking the risky Channel crossing to Kent.
However, as I look at the fit young men in the video playing ball in the Napier yard, I can’t help thinking they would be better employed quickly in the warehouses and delivery trucks where there are jobs waiting to be filled. Why not a visa centre in northern France to organise this for refugees?