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.

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
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.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?