The barbarous coast

Kent's local papers are whipping up anti-immigrant sentiment - but they're not, of course, racist.

It wasn't clear whether the Folkestone Herald was aping The Sun or The Sunday Sport: "Town centre call-girls in Folkestone claim immigrant women have sunk to an all-time low selling their bodies for the price of a spud," it reported last month, in the midst of the media frenzy over asylum-seekers coming into Britain. "The blouses are coming off as refugee `potato patch dollies' are winning their own version of the war of the undieworlds," the paper punned. "A local prostitute reckons that Slovak `working women' have a new motto: For mash, read cash. The 29-year-old Folkestone call-girl says she is fed up with immigrants stealing customers with incredibly low prices."

The paper gave it the full treatment - including the po-faced official police statement that "they have had no reports of Slovaks soliciting but would like to hear from anyone who has". Evidently unsure itself whether to treat the story as a joke or a serious news item, the Herald hedged its bets by printing a rebuttal from a local refugee organisation explaining why it was extremely unlikely that any of the "family-orientated" Romany refugees in the town would be involved in prostitution.

In an area where anti-refugee feeling is running high, and where some people seem to be prepared to believe almost anything about asylum-seekers, such an "exclusive" ceases to be simply daft and becomes dangerous as well. Here, for instance, are just two of the "33 reasons why we should send them back", listed in a leaflet widely circulated in the Dover and Folkestone area recently: "No medical checks on refugees - with the knowledge of their promiscuity and selling sex for money, who is to answer for the epidemic of venereal diseases that will undoubtedly become rife?"; "A local hospital has advised that in the event of any blood contact with these people, medical help is of the utmost importance."

The leaflet also rages against refugees' supposed involvement in crime, their preferential treatment over longstanding residents and the luxurious lifestyle they enjoy at British taxpayers' expense - DSS "crisis loans" of up to pounds 1,000 are said to be spent at the local Argos jewellery counter, where the asylum-seekers can be seen "getting their friends to take photographs to send back to their families and show them their new-found wealth".

The rantings of an extreme anti-immigrant minority? Certainly. But here is how the Dover Express, 15 October, reported the views of one of the leaflet's authors, under the headline "DSS cheats are now into brothels": "A Dover woman wants local people to join her in putting pressure on the Government into doing something about the number of immigrants in town. Sheila Farrell, 63, of Avenue Road, Dover, hopes enough people will show an interest in going to Westminster to lobby Parliament that it will make it worthwhile hiring a coach."

The article then quotes her at length: "Immigrants get so much more benefits than local people... They've taken over loads of houses... The education department is paying for a 52-seat bus to take four immigrant children to school while mums and their youngsters have to walk... One asylum seeker is being housed though he won pounds 150,000 on the National Lottery... The police are called out up to 15 times a day because of immigrants shoplifting. And at least three brothels have popped up around Dover..."

In case you thought this coverage of Sheila Farrell's unsubstantiated prejudices was a one-off aberration, it's worth looking at how the Dover Express has been treating these issues week in and week out.

"Builder pays a high price to stem the flow," said its headline over another report in October about how a local builder - who intends to stand for the British National Party in next year's local elections - was "refusing work from businesses which accommodate asylum seekers, immigrants and refugees". "We are sitting on a time bomb that must be defused now," announced its editorial that same issue. "Every week we report fresh outpourings of resentment over the tide of immigrants arriving through our port. It is easy to dismiss these as the opinions of an extremist minority." We shouldn't do so, it seems: "The vast majority of townsfolk are not racist. But they ARE alarmed by what they believe is an escalating problem."

The vast majority may well not be racist. But a significant minority have been given voice - and legitimacy - for the sort of opinions that defy any other description. This, finally, was the Dover Express on 1 October, in an editorial headed "We want to wash dross down drain", published during the Labour Party conference in Blackpool.

"Illegal immigrants, asylum seekers, bootleggers... and scum of the earth drug smugglers have targeted our beloved coastline," the paper raged. "Kent Police have their backs to the sea and are being pushed closer to the cliff edge. While Labour luvvies dribble on at Blackpool we are left with the backdraft of a nation's human sewage and NO CASH to wash it down the drain."

You don't have to be a racist to publish that - but it helps.

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions