Queues of lorries choke the streets of Dover in Kent. They tail back from the port town, through Kent’s roads and onto the M20 motorway.
The cops’ Operation Stack has turned it into a giant lorry park.
Dover resident Brenda told Socialist Worker, “It is affecting a lot of people—and they are all really pissed off.
“People are going late to hospitals and some are missing appointments. Last week my bus was hours late coming from Hastings.
“There’s no toilets and the truckers just piss in bottles and throw them by the side of the road.”
Many people put the blame on migrants trying to come to Britain for the delays at Eurotunnel. Dover resident Bethan told Socialist Worker, “There is a mixture of feelings, and they’re polarised.
“But overwhelmingly people feel threatened—that’s what you hear in the pubs.
“I think that’s because of the negative media, which can lead people to believe that there are ‘swarms’ or ‘floods’ of migrants coming.”
Dover suffered heavily under Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s cuts in the 1980s.
When the 1984?85 Miners’ Strike lost the Tories rapidly rammed through their planned pit closure programme in the Kent coalfield. Then they came for the dockers.
Pensioner Mrs Thromble has lived in Dover all her life. She said the gridlock was affecting the town “but Dover’s a dump anyway”.
“There’s no shops, there’s no nothing,” she told Socialist Worker. “All we’ve got are charity shops and phone shops. Even Marks and Spencer is closing next year.”
Brenda said, “There were jobs in shops, factories, the mines and the boats, but now there’s nothing for young people.
“If they want to work or do anything they have to go out of the town.” Mrs Thromble added, “My grandson is 18 years old—there’s nothing here for him.”
There’s a sense of anger against the politicians and the local council. Brenda said, “People at the top are disconnected from us.
“They just don’t care. They don’t come down here so how would they know anything about our problems?
“Is David Cameron going to come? No, he’s in China.”
But that anger is also directed towards migrants. “I think it’s the council and immigrants that are to blame for our problems,” said Brenda.
“We used to have Scousers and Irish people working on the docks. But you don’t have that anymore. There’s still some work, but there’s more machinery and less jobs.”
Bethan said, “The media and the government have done a good job to make people look at each other and not them.
“There are quieter voices who don’t agree with the narrative.”
Dover’s Folkestone Road, with its eastern European residents, is a major focus for people’s anger—but it also shows up contradictions. Brenda said, “Rich people are buying the properties and renting them out at really high prices.
“They buy up the lot and don’t care what state they’re in, with many of them actually falling apart. But they just don’t care about the town.”
Yet Brenda also blamed eastern European migrant workers for the problems. She said, “Folkestone Road used to be a wonderful road, with old houses and B&Bs and hotels for tourists.
“Now there’s beds and mattresses everywhere—it’s because of immigrants.”
But Bethan pointed out, “The local press has whipped this up. In the newspaper there was a headline that read, ‘Folkestone Road: A No Go Area’. But my friend who lives there said it was rubbish, that they’ve never had any problems.
“They’re talking about the mattresses.
“During the last six months there has been a massive increase in rough sleepers on Dover High Street, but if you erode the welfare state so much that is what’s going to happen.”
Rado is a migrant worker from Kosice in eastern Slovakia and has lived in Dover for four years. He told Socialist Worker, “It’s not us who are to blame.
“We work, we pay our taxes and we have the right to claim benefits, even though that’s getting harder now.
“It’s true, some English people are alright. The others? Well, they don’t want us here.
“No one’s said anything personally to me—we keep ourselves to ourselves—but I know what some of them think.”
There aren’t relatively that many migrant workers in Dover and the town isn’t a major “dispersal” area for asylum seekers.
But the impact of the media coverage is making some believe that Dover is under siege. Brenda pointed to different B&Bs and hotels where she said she had “heard” the council was housing migrants.
Bethan explained that the council uses the County Hotel and others as emergency accommodation, but that’s not specifically for migrants.
“People are angry about all of these things—jobs, housing, wages—and they are all real concerns,” she said.
“When you actually talk to people about it, they might say that their biggest concern is immigration. But if you talk to them on a deeper level, it’s housing, it’s jobs. We can challenge these things.”