Article from Black Flag #218 1999.
Behind The Headlines In Dover - Black Flag
After a fight in a fairground on the weekend of the August 14-15, when 15 people were injured, the police made a show of force with "chief officers warning residents and asylum seekers that violence will not be tolerated from anyone.” This is an apparent change from a policy where police had only intervened to protect racists.
There were rumours of yet another attempt by the National Front (NF) to march or at least try a paper-sale on August 21. On the 19th they distributed leaflets door-to-door in the Buckland area. The leaflet attacked asylum seekers and Refugee Link, a local group which supports them, or as the NF have it "actively supports the programme of filling Britain with scrounging 'ASYLUM SEEKERS'.” It ends saying that the NF will march again in Dover soon. On the Saturday, a few local anti-fascists went out looking for NF activity but just ended up being searched by the cops. Meanwhile in the “riot-torn” seaside town everyone else went about their business quietly.
The following week the NF were out again leafleting, saying they would march from Dover Priory Station on Saturday 28 August. The local council applied for a ban on all marches — racist or in solidarity with asylum seekers — for three months. The NF backed down, adopting their law-abiding citizen image and saying they did not want confrontation with the police or anti-fascists! This is the highest-profile use of a ban on marches an the British mainland for years and allowed [Home Secretary Jack] Straw to look like a moderate mediator rather than one of the protagonists.
From the start it should be pointed out that the violence in Dover has not been confined to attacks on or by asylum seekers and plenty of British people in Dover have made a stand against racism and bigotry. Only a few weeks before the 'tinderbox' erupted, a British Asian woman was attacked when she went to the aid of an asylum seeker. The police did nothing except to protect the pub that sheltered the racists.
This was only one of a series of incidents that have taken place, stirred up by racists in the press and government. These have been reported but only in anti-racist publications like CARF. There was no sudden explosion of violence and certainly no race riot.
Tough on Shitting in Doorways, Tough on the Causes of Shifting in Doorways
Scum like Nick Hudson of the Dover Echo, Jack Straw and the late lamented Mike O'Brien masquerade as bona-fide journalists or politicians, but in reality they think there is nothing wrong with plastering their racist shit over newspapers and airwaves. Lord Bassani, ex-Brighton squatter turned pompous council leader, is competing with Anne Widdecombe and outgunning his own boss Barbara Roche, for column space, but this is more than just a summertime opportunist playing of the race card.
Straw's Asylum & Immigration Bill took a brief knocking over its welfare provision. Removing any access to benefits for asylum seekers, replacing it with a voucher system, complete with a 'Voucher Tsar', voucher appeals system and voucher cops, will cost everyone, except TESCO'S, a lot of money. The government admit that it will cost a lot more than just paying benefits directly. Straw argues that by keeping asylum seekers below the poverty line they will not come here in the first place. These fewer applications could then be dealt with more quickly and cheaply. Less money would be spent on vouchers, and Immigration Service jobs could be cut too. However for most people the decision to leave their country and come here is not based on the attractions of the Job Seekers Allowance or even citizenship classes for their children. Death squads in Columbia or Algeria, Taliban militiamen in Afghanistan, and Czech Nazis spend very little, if any, time assessing the likely impact of their actions on British Home Office spending projections. Until recently Straw appeared too dumb to realise this or too cynical to care. As Widdecombe emerged as the heroine of middle-England, Straw started spinning a slightly different line. He admitted that the number of applications was dependent on conditions in countries such as Afghanistan or Somalia, realising that with opposition from the parliamentary right he now had the opportunity to get the liberal left back on-board.
The root of the perceived problems in Dover and Kent is that asylum seekers are dependent financially on local authorities. Those who claim asylum, after going through immigration control, have no access to the reduced benefits available to port applicants, Many come in on the backs of lorries or other clandestine methods such as bent EU passports and apply for asylum in Kent, soon after arrival. Excluded from benefits, they become the responsibility of the Kent local authority.
The government proposals would make support the responsibility of central government using franchised agencies such as Housing Associations, local social services, quangos and doubtless some enthusiastic entrepreneurs.
The events in Dover allow Straw to act now to force dispersal at local authority expense. Anyone who resists will be responsible for 'race riots' in Dover. Then a centrally-administered voucher scheme will appear to promise beneficial change as opposed to the sick chaos that will ensue, This is not conspiracy, this is good news management.