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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

  • Get to the point
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.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor