Dover MP Charlie Elphicke says pro-refugee protesters ‘unwelcome’

'Unwelcome, damaging to our nation's economy and the town. Go away'

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The Independent Online

A Conservative MP has said that pro-refugee, anti-fascist protesters are “unwelcome” in his town.

Charlie Elphicke, the Tory MP for Dover since 2010, wrote on Twitter: “Militant hard left occupying port road at Dover. Unwelcome, damaging to our nation's economy and the town. Go away.”

Twelve people were arrested at the protest in Dover on Saturday, which featured both far-right and anti-fascist groups, according to Kent Police. The force had increased its presence in order to prevent a repeat of the violent clashes witnessed in January, using mounted police, police dogs and barriers.

Kent Anti-Racism Network were reportedly chanting pro-refugees songs, including "Theresa May, hear us say, let them in, and let them stay". Members of the group plan to take a van of supplies to the refugees in the Calais "Jungle" after the protest.

People on social media were quick to condemn the MP’s comments for their lack of balance. Twitter user StuC said: “Less welcome than the racist thugs are they? Well well. Who'd have thought it.”

Nick O Brien added: “But you've tweeted nothing today about the far right not being welcome. Appalling…”

After mounting criticism, Mr Elphicke then wrote on Twitter: "Fascists now matching to port. Equally unwelcome, damaging to our nation's economy & the town as the anti fascists."

Kent Anti-Racism Network described Mr Elphicke's comments as "dangerous". A spokesperson for the group told The Independent: "Ever since the armed and violent Nazi National Front and their fascist cohorts came to Dover on 30 January, Charlie Elphicke has equated them with those who oppose their right to march through our towns chanting anti-refugee slogans while giving Nazi salutes.

"Mr Elphicke's later comments that the fascists were not welcome only materialised after he received huge criticism on Twitter. We believe that his target was clearly humanitarian anti-fascists. If the fascists didn't march in Dover, then we wouldn't have to oppose them."

Before the protest, police said they would use powers to stop and search people or vehicles for offensive weapons or dangerous instruments. Those with face coverings may be asked to remove them if it is believed they are wearing them to conceal their identity.

Neil Jerome, Kent Police’s assistant chief constable, said in a statement: "It is safe to say there will be disruption in the town which, even with all the plans in place, cannot be completely avoided.

"We believe that if people are warned in advance, they can make arrangements to avoid getting caught up in the protest and go about their business. Our policing operation is intelligence-led, based on the best information available to us.

"However, due to the nature of these protests, it is impossible to know exactly how many people are going to be involved or how they will behave on the day.”

Mr Elphicke could not be reached for comment.