Boat arrivals get mixed reactions

Distant figures arrive at Pett Level on Saturday from the Channel

While the coronavirus pandemic may, or may not, have passed its peak in this country, other issues do not seem to go away – and one is that of refugees, or economic migrants, depending on your point of view – whose tiny boats continue to cross the Channel from France in apparently increasing numbers during better weather and calmer seas.

And they arrive, from the direction of Calais, and are carried along the coast by the current from Dover towards Hastings – and this weekend another boatload arrived at Pett Level.

And they have arrived there (or indeed at Dungeness) often enough for our Member of Parliament Sally-Ann Hart to write to an open letter to the Home Secretary earlier this month (see letter below). However, not everyone agrees with her point of view.

Some do agree though, but some reactions are not always appreciated.

And this is not the first time our country, and this coastline, and indeed Rye, has received hundreds of refugees. In 1572 after the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre of Protestants by Catholics there were 641 Huguenot refugees in Rye. And reactions then were mixed.

This what our MP had to say :

Letter from Sally-Ann Hart to the Home Secretary Priti Patel 1/2 (click on image to enlarge)
Letter from Sally-Ann Hart to the Home Secretary Priti Patel 2/2 (click on image to enlarge)

And this is what a a group from Hastings, which works to support refugees, had to say in response.

Image Credits: Dietlind Löffler .


  1. Well, well more people crossing the channel/le manche to come to jolly old England after Brexit cannot be a surprise to anyone. It was predicted by social scientists and economists as the was the reduction in agricultural workers and health and social care staff. Our current MP is a longstanding hard Brexit supporter and she has offered no guidance nor support for the complexities of the situation, unlike our previous MP Amber Rudd. The new Border is the Kent and East Sussex coast whereas before it was the Mediterranean coasts of France, Spain, Italy and Greece. Why should France or Belgium detain people from leaving their country? They had a legal obligation to do that when we were a member of the EU but in our final months in our quasi member status, why bother when our government has been arrogant and grandstanding about the final breakup. It is a human tragedy occurring all across Europe and we lack humane leadership in helping to see a way to respond to the problem. In the years to come refugees and asylum seekers will increase across the local area. Our MP and our government can blame France and the EU or they can chose to work with our neighbours on a solution. East Sussex and Kent could become the next Greece, albeit likely on a smaller scale unless plans are developed now. It would be fantastic if Sally-Ann Hart, MP should rise to the challenge. I do hope she will.

  2. I see Prof Camic offers no solution to the problem. It seems insurmountable and requires drastic action to return these unwanted people whence they came. They should be put on a boat and transported back to France. It is my belief that the French are very slack in letting them set sail in the first place, even after taking shed loads of money from us to bolster their defences.

  3. I agree with Bill Head, but I’m not surprised by Prof Camic’s attitude, it is typical of the re-joiners who have a problem with democracy.

    I believe it is a well established fact that a place on a rubber dinghy costs Euro 3,000. That is not a sum any legitimate asylum seeking refugee can find. Either these people are being trafficked, or they are economic migrants trying to circumvent our laws. Either way, they should be returned. It is well established that a person fleeing persecution must seek asylum in the first safe country they enter. Plainly they have crossed France (or other EU countries) to get to Calais. If the EU is not safe for them it rather begs the question why its supporters so fervently wish to rejoin.

    Those deserving of our help, the Yazidi for example are overlooked by those clamouring to move people from safe havens. I find the attitude inexplicable.

  4. A drone is often launched from Lydd airport to patrol our side of the channel. I have not seen one launched by the French to patrol their coast. What a waste of money ours is, all it does is alert our authorities to illegal boat trips on our side of the channel. Then the migrants are brought to our shore. Only a small percentage are ever returned.

  5. Why is the UK such a draw in the first place? Is it partly because we do not have Identity cards, so it is possible to pretend to be whomever you want and disappear into the populace? A freedom for criminality? Why do refugees destroy their papers? If they were genuine, they should not be afraid to let us know who they are and where they come from and why. If they can pay HUGE amounts of money to the people smugglers, money raised by their families to ‘help’ them on to a ‘better life’ – little do they know! – imagine how useful that money could have been for them to establish themselves in another country if only they had the possibility of applying for asylum in their home countries. Trouble is, no European country wants to encourage immigration, legal or otherwise and the United Nations wants nothing to do with it.

  6. Each of the above replies reflects a legitimate concern, but there’s one element conspicuously (and conveniently) absent from most discussions in this area…

    The Brexit debate is certainly relevant bcs it will ultimately see the ‘Dublin III’ arrangement with the EU end. Under that agreement, the UK could legitimately return people who could reasonably have sought asylum in another EU country. But re-opening the Brexit debate isn’t helpful at this stage. Sure, let’s try to establish a new post-Brexit agreement, but let’s not distract ourself from the causes of this crisis.

    Similarly, the importation of potentially undocumented Covid-19 cases is of course a legitimate concern, but, again, is about the symptom of this situation, not the disease.

    Finally, the nexus between organised crime, traffickers and extremism, which can be traced back to conflicted lands just across the Mediterranean, is something which obviously strikes fear into many hearts. (But on the subject of exploitation, the adoption by some of this cause might be a neat political sleight of hand, implying compassion, but it doesn’t entirely convince…)

    However, in fully understanding this problem, we should take a closer look at who these exploited, undifferentiated “migrants” are. Look at where these people come from – Yemen, Egypt, Chad, Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. The parts of the world that are poorest and facing most upheaval and human misery. In many instances, this country and our European and US allies, have had a direct influence upon the perilous conditions that these populations face. So, whilst I acknowledge a lot of the concerns above – and share them – I would ask that people see beyond, to the bigger picture.

    Having spent many years in the Middle East, particularly Iraq, I couldn’t ignore the fact that Britain played an intimate part in utterly destroying that country – its army, its police force, its, social cohesion, its infrastructure, its monuments, history – even its future, perhaps… So, if an Iraqi, for instance, landed down at Pett, I think I could understand why. Why wouldn’t he want to come to a country where you can turn on a tap and get clean water? Where you might find work and dignity? Where there’s electricity 24 hrs a day and you’re not susceptible to arbitrary death at the hands of a terrorist or a policeman?

    Migration is a much bigger problem than Brexit or border security. It’s about finding long-term solutions to the world’s economic and social problems. It’s easy to sell military hardware to Generals and dictators in the ‘good times’ when they can suppress their own benighted populations, keep the oil flowing, and bash our supposed ‘enemies’. But there’s a human consequence to all that. And we’re seeing it now. Boats and barbed wire won’t stop human beings trying to live decently.


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