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Migrant boats cross the Channel as hundreds greet asylum seekers at barracks

Up to 200 people gathered outside a military barracks in Kent where asylum-seekers are being housed to greet their ‘new neighbours’.

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A group of people, thought to be migrants, waiting on a Border Force rib to come ashore at Dover marina in Kent, after a small boat incident in the English Channel.

A group of people, thought to be migrants, waiting on a Border Force rib to come ashore at Dover marina in Kent, after a small boat incident in the English Channel.

A group of people, thought to be migrants, waiting on a Border Force rib to come ashore at Dover marina in Kent, after a small boat incident in the English Channel.

Dozens of migrants are believed to have reached the UK on Saturday aboard small boats as recent rough seas calmed.

Meanwhile, up to 200 people gathered outside a military barracks in Kent where asylum-seekers are being housed to greet their “new neighbours”.

Local residents as well as people from further afield cheered and danced outside Napier Barracks in Folkestone, chanting “we love you” to those within.

Many of those inside cheered and called back to the well wishers, with some holding up signs of their own.

A small group of counter-protesters was also present.

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Pro-migrant demonstrators outside Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, gathered in a show of support welcoming migrants to the area (Michael Drummond/PA)

Pro-migrant demonstrators outside Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, gathered in a show of support welcoming migrants to the area (Michael Drummond/PA)

PA

Pro-migrant demonstrators outside Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, gathered in a show of support welcoming migrants to the area (Michael Drummond/PA)

There was a heavy police presence in place to watch over the hour-long demonstration, and one person was arrested.

As winter approaches, crossings have become increasingly difficult with relatively few believed to have successfully made it to Britain in October.

But, despite the chill, low winds on Saturday have seen a substantial number of people attempt the dangerous crossing.

In Dover, several people wrapped in blankets and wearing lifejackets were seen arriving after likely being picked up out at sea.

They came into the harbour aboard patrol boat Hunter, one of several Border Force vessels busy on Saturday.

The significant Border Force presence in the English Channel has been assisted by the coastguard helicopter and French patrol ships.

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Pro-migrant demonstrators outside Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, gathered in a show of support welcoming migrants to the area (Michael Drummond/PA)

Pro-migrant demonstrators outside Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, gathered in a show of support welcoming migrants to the area (Michael Drummond/PA)

PA

Pro-migrant demonstrators outside Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, gathered in a show of support welcoming migrants to the area (Michael Drummond/PA)

Many of those arriving via the Channel in recent months have been housed at Napier Barracks, which has been converted to house around 400 asylum seekers.

The Home Office has confirmed that one individual who had been living at the site has tested positive for Covid-19.

Dozens of well-wishers assembled at the barracks on Saturday to welcome the asylum seekers who have been arriving in recent weeks.

Many of those who stood outside bore placards with messages of solidarity in English and Arabic, some of which were fixed to the barracks fence.

Groups of well-wishers shouted through gaps in the site boundary and waved to those inside, many of whom waved back.

There were outbreaks of clapping and cheering in the festive atmosphere.

Migrant charity worker Bridget Chapman, of 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.

“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.”

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Police intervene and remove a man during a demonstration outside Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent

Police intervene and remove a man during a demonstration outside Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent

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Police intervene and remove a man during a demonstration outside Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent

A small group of counter-protesters also gathered near the gates to the site.

A significant policing presence was deployed outside the barracks and in the surrounding area.

While the demonstrations were peaceful, police were seen moving one man away from the crowd.

One person was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage, Kent Police confirmed.

PA