On Friday the Cabinet Minister for Immigration, Robert Jenrick MP, came to Dover to meet residents and councillors at my request.
The small boats crisis is having a huge impact on our community, and has done now for a number of years, with ever increasing numbers of people arriving.
There is widespread anger across the whole country about the scale and cost of illegal immigration. Some of that feeling is borne from political views about controlling the border. Some of it is financial, concerned about the millions of pounds a day spent on hotels in a cost of living crisis.
On the other side of the political divide are those who see the focus of their concern about the conditions at Manston, and who want greater rights for migrants to work, to stay or to be able to come to the country in greater numbers and with more ease. It is fair to say that this is a politically divisive issue, resulting in extremely strong views, even ideological driven terrorism as we have seen in recent days.
But in our community of Dover and Deal, concerns are very real and immediate about housing, local services and personal security. These concerns need to be understood and addressed. That’s why it was important for the Minister to hear from residents and councillors first-hand.
Robert Jenrick heard from Aycliffe residents about how the boats had been landing on their local beach, with some migrants entering gardens and a home. They told the Minister about the concerns they had for their safety and that of their families. This included one resident who says she has a sledgehammer to hand when she sleeps to protect her and her young child, after a migrant came over the garden fence in the summer. She explained how her child could no longer play in the back garden without supervision, following a series of concerning incidents.
I also raised concerns on behalf of residents in Kingsdown and St Margaret’s who had similar issues with boats arriving on their beaches.
Councillors spoke about the strain on local Kent services. Kent council leaders have said that public services are at ‘breaking point’. There is massive pressure on housing, school places and other services.
As your Member of Parliament, it’s my primary duty to speak up for residents and our community. When I speak up, I often receive threats from the left and the right, including death and violent threats and vile hate abuse. There are those who try to shut down debate by labelling people concerned about the impact of illegal migration on them and their families as extremist or racist. But we mustn’t forget that this is organised criminal activity which is having a huge impact on our community. I won’t be deflected from standing up for our community and being firm on the need to end the small boats crossings for good.