Let Dover stew in its disgusting narrow-mindedness and prejudice

THE WORD "influx" is defined in The Concise Oxford Dictionary as meaning a "flowing in of persons or things". And it is the watery word that the BBC is currently using - unapostrophised - to describe the entry to Britain of asylum-seekers. Reporters for the corporation evidently observe a land into which a constant stream of foreigners runs; gentle but irresistible.

For The Daily Telegraph, however, this image of the stream is insufficiently dramatic. That newspaper instead witnesses a "flood". Again, my dictionary on consultation gives me: "Flood. Irruption of water over land, inundation. Overflow in, or cover with a flood". So does the editor, Charles Moore, see his country being "covered" over with Somalis and Kurds? Does he turn every corner fearing, once again, to find them there, chewing the narcotic wali-wali nut and eyeing him with hostility? Do they frighten his horse with muttered oaths as he canters the Royal Mile?

The view is even bleaker from Kensington. There, in his eyrie overlooking the park that Diana loved so much, Brian Sewell - art critic and political commentator - wrote in yesterday's London Evening Standard that, "we are besieged and invaded by would-be immigrants from former Yugoslavia", adding that, "Kent alone has given shelter to some 5,000 of them." "Besieged" means being the targets of a siege, and that in turn is defined as: "Operations of attacking force to take or compel surrender of fortified place; persistent attack or attempt to persuade". To invade is to "make hostile inroad into; swarm into; assail; encroach". Things are obviously bad over there. The white stucco is festooned with scaling ladders, as baying Slavs attempt to break into Mr Sewell's loggia and pillage his collection of miniatures.

But Mr Sewell cannot be exaggerating. The same thing he was talking about was described on Monday by the Home Office minister Lord Bassam of Brighton as being "intolerable". The OED gives this as meaning something "that cannot be endured". Cannot be endured, not "something one would rather not go through". So, for instance, prolonged, agonising torture would be described as "intolerable".

Indeed, so difficult have things become in the Garden of England that the chair of Kent social services, Brenda Trench, said, "we are appealing to local people to keep calm." The same advice was simultaneously being given to the people of north-west Turkey by the Turkish Prime Minister, in the wake of earthquakes that have killed hundreds, if not thousands, of people. When someone tells you to keep calm, it means you have a great deal to be worried about.

The immediate reason for all this talk of floods, invasions and the need for calm, was the weekend disturbances in Dover. Following an assault on a refugee on Friday night, other asylum-seekers went to a local fair armed with knives. Various "local" youths (for "local", read "English"), who in other circumstances might themselves have been candidates for epithetical target practice, were "victims" of stabbings. The whole thing was awful enough to rate a visitation from Ann Widdecombe, there to pour magnesium on troubled waters.

Why has all this happened? By coincidence a letter to Jack Straw from the Tory leader of Kent County Council, Sandy Bruce Lockhart, was leaked a few days ago. Sandy was scared about the impact of asylum-seekers on Dover. "The area," he told Mr Straw, "has virtually no prior history of multicultural diversity; local people feel increasingly `swamped' and resentful - and this is leading to increased confrontation and incidents, some of which are violent and probably racially motivated...

"It is no exaggeration to say that in parts of Dover it is a tinder- box atmosphere and we are increasingly fearful that it could culminate in a fatal confrontation or arson attack."

House prices are down. Children are scared to go on to the street. Old ladies are assailed by grinning piccaninnies. Oops. Ann Widdecombe blames the Government for making Britain, "a soft touch". Presumably she would like to see much tougher action taken to stop asylum-seekers coming to the country, and then problems like Dover's would go away. There is some disagreement about how many asylum-seekers are in Dover. The refugee agencies seem to believe that there are about 750, in a town of 32,000 people. And whoever may be invading Sewellvania, most of the asylum-seekers in Kent are Afghans and Kurds.

Now, if 750 people turned up for a Third Division soccer match between Useless United and Pathetic Albion, the crowd would be described as pitiful. But when 750 asylum-seekers live in a medium-sized town, it is an event of almost biblical dimensions. Net total migration in 1995 was plus 54,000, and the flow has been a minus figure in many years since the war. In 1993, for instance, 2,500 more people went to live abroad than came in. There were, as I recall, no headlines.

What I'm saying is that I'm utterly disgusted and fed up with asylum- seekers being described as being the problem. They are not, and never have been. We are the problem. When the appearance in your midst of a number of people who speak a different language to you, and who eat different food, arouses your alarm and hostility, how can that be due to some deficiency in them?

But what is even worse is the way that this intolerance is pandered to. Thus the spokesperson of the Local Government Association said this week that: "It is not difficult to see how resentment can build up. People think money spent on asylum-seekers could go on health care or schools. It is not just racism."

Of course it is. Bruce Lockhart's letter is the giveaway. The people of Dover "feel" resentful because they have "virtually no history of multicultural diversity". And this in one of England's most historic ports! A translation of this passage becomes, "they do not like foreigners". Which is why the editor of the local rag has talked about human sewage, why apocryphal tales of prostitution and criminality do the rounds of the pubs, why the ultra-right has targeted Dover, and why asylum-seekers have been beaten up and threatened.

No wonder Dover is in an economic hole. A compassionate Government would move the asylum-seekers for their own good, on the basis that Dover is obviously no place where anyone should be forced to live if they can help it. Let it stew in its narrow-mindedness and prejudice.

Those who should be forced to live in Dover include Miss Widdecombe, the Christian who loves foxes, but ain't so keen on her fellow human beings, especially in their time of necessity; the spineless local Labour MP Gwyn Prosser, who "understands" the feelings of locals (don't we all?); and the egregious Lord Bassam. For when he talks about the situation being "intolerable", what he is doing is excusing intolerance. The truly tolerant do not find many things intolerable.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all