Police calm tension in Dover

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The Independent Online
POLICE FROM across Kent were drafted on to the streets of Dover yesterday after violent weekend confrontations between residents and refugees left 11 people injured, some with stab wounds.

The latest in a series of clashes in Dover between locals and asylum seekers led to three arrests. The three men were questioned by police but released on bail pending further inquiries.

Six people were injured on Friday night and five on Saturday afternoon. The trouble centred around a funfair in the Folkestone Road area of Dover, where the bulk of asylum seekers live in bed-and-breakfast hotels.

More than 5,000 refugees are now thought to be living in Dover and other nearby coastal towns, drawing bitter protests from residents and local politicians. A total of eight people needed hospital treatment, mainly for knife wounds.

Kent County Council, which earlier this month warned the Government of the town's "tinder box" atmosphere, said the violence was no surprise. "The issue was not if, but when, where and how bad. We would not be at all surprised if matters got worse," said Keith Ferrin, the deputy leader.

Tensions were exacerbated by the fact that previously, only a tiny percentage of Dover residents came from ethnic minorities, he added. "The problem is that it is a bit like London when the Empire Windrush brought the first immigrants in the 1950s."

Dover's Labour MP spoke out about the creation of a "ghetto" of 1,000- 2,000 asylum seekers, mainly from Eastern Europe and the Balkans, in a small town unused to ethnic minorities. Gwyn Prosser added: "I would appeal to both sides to remain calm, no matter who they might think is to blame."

The Dover Express's anti-refugee coverage last year drew widespread criticism.

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