Christine Tongue: Vigil to show care for refugees

Demonstrators in Ramsgate

Migrants are risking drowning in small boats in the English Channel, a few miles away from us, desperate to get asylum here and prepared to put their lives and all their life savings in tiny boats run by crooks. Some people in Kent feel we should be kind to them and it’s a mark of civilisation to welcome them and look after them.

Over 100 of us, distressed by what we’d seen on TV of freezing people arriving on our coast, held a vigil in Ramsgate last Sunday to show how we felt. It was organised by Kent Anti-Racism Network (KARN) and people came from all over the county to represent their communities and show they care about refugees.

Not everyone agreed with us. Two and a half fascists also turned up to shout a bit of opposition. The half was a little guy who started to change his mind after a particularly persuasive KARN member talked to him. He even followed her into the pub to say how much he admired her…..

I was particularly anxious to be there because I’d overheard a conversation on the bus the day before: “More landed this morning and they were taken straight to hospital. All young men so there can’t be anything wrong with them. And I can’t get an appointment to see my GP.” “Disgraceful”, said the friend, “That’s why the health service is in trouble.”

As someone who’s taken my old bones to stand in the cold on endless demonstrations and marches to save the NHS I know that refugees are not why the NHS is in trouble.

My own refugee, my friend Aram, who came in the back of a lorry from Iraq 20 years ago, only burdened the NHS once in his life when he was run over by a (British) careless driver. Since then, he has become a volunteer with St John’s Ambulance and has patched up and taken to hospital a lot of sick or wounded Thanet folk, and saved two lives

He works hard and pays his taxes.

I know he’s not necessarily typical, but if you let people die in the Channel because they might burden our health service, let’s think about the real burdens on the NHS. It’s people like me! Old, disabled, with increasing needs as we get more decrepit. I’m now seeing two physios and might have to have yet another new hip joint.

We are fighting to save our health services in Kent from horrendous cuts and creeping privatisation. We may lose our stroke unit soon and maternity and A&E are also under threat. But if you want to lay blame, please don’t attack the few refugees tackling our wintry waters. Blame government cuts, or me!

What I’d like to say to the bigot on the bus is: Those young men may finish up looking after you and you may be a burden on the NHS long before they are!


  1. Nobody I know would ever say no to genuine refugees coming to Britain, in fact this Country has welcomed refugees for as long as I can tell so we are not all racist bigots as described above if we do not agree with them. What gets up people’s goats is the fact that these are illegal migrants, not refugees at all, but they are too blind to see that. These people have crossed Country after Country spending their money on long journey’s just to specifically get to the UK. They are putting their own lives at risk to cross the sea in tiny boats or threatening drivers of container lorries when already in a civilised Country where they can apply for asylum. They are not forced to flee to the UK, but it is their own selfishness putting themselves at risk and on to others to look after them. I am sorry but I don’t get sucked into all this antagonistic rubbish about the british being racist because of Brexit and migrants.

  2. Well said. I am fed up with people usingnterms like fascist without regard for what fascism really is.

    There are very few fascists in the UK, there are very few people who are against those who truly need asylum being here.

    These people do not need asylum if they can:

    1) Pay upwards of £3-6k for a spot on one of these boats.

    2) Ignore the rules of asylum of which are that you claim it in the first safe haven you arrive in, which for most is Italy or a Balkan state.

    When as a group of people, these namby pambies can accept that some people legitimately want these people to enter the country correctly and not through illegal trafficking, and they can use a communicative discourse that doesn’t result in slandering a group of people as “bigots, fascists, etc.” then maybe they will find that the other side will meet them in the middle.

    I don’t see this happening soon though.

  3. I would also like to thank Kent Resident and The Egg for factually and succinctly explaining the facts.

    I could not agree more . . .

  4. I am not a fascist or a bigot. I have been treated in hospital by Doctors and Nurses from all over the world. Has anyone stopped to think what we can offer unlimited immigrants? We have such a great shortage of housing, people living on the streets, very few jobs about, a falling down NHS, To see immigrants housed when you are living in substandard housing and have no chance on the housing list does not bode well for good relations with people already here and immigrants. We need to build on a better understanding of why people come halfway round the world to come to UK. The ruling is get over the first safe border and register . Why do some feel they have a right to chose where they live, if they are safe it should be enough, what can we offer that other countries can’t?

  5. So anyone who has a different view to you and your ilk is automatically a fascist? Very democratic! As you have introduced a picture showing Rebecca Gordon Nesbitt who has been blocked by the Labour NEC from standing as the Labour Parliamentary candidate for South Thanet ,how is her resinstatement campaign going? I trust she has the full support of County Councillor Karen Constantine.

  6. The vast majority of refugees in the world live in camps in poor countries adjacent to the countries the refugees came from. A smaller number make it to parts of Europe or North America where they apply for refugee status or asylum. By comparison, an absolutely tiny number of the world’s refugees make a special effort to go to the UK because they have friends and family in Britain who can accommodate them. Or they have a skill and a bit of English so they know they could survive better. The ones who make it to the UK probably have the money to pay people smugglers because they had good jobs in their home country. But good jobs are not a defence when the government is looking to arrest and execute you. It just gives you a chance to get out quick.

    The people who claim asylum abroad are often the better-educated from their home countries, the doctors, teachers, lawyers, journalists and politicians who spoke out against their repressive governments or murderous militias. Such professionals often have the money to escape. The poorer people who campaign for freedom and better conditions are simply murdered and their bodies dumped. We do not hear about them except from their surviving family members who get to refugee camps.

    As far as Europe is concerned, Germany moved fast when the Syrian crisis broke out. Germany claimed a million of Syria’s best educated and qualified citizens. Young and fit, they trekked across half of Europe to get to Germany and ,in the years to come, they will maintain Germany’s higher economic status at a time when all European counties are facing a decline in younger, fitter, qualified workers. Meanwhile, Britain only agreed to take 20,000 Syrian refugees over many years, and mostly from refugee camps in Lebanon and Turkey where the oldest and most demoralised eke out a poor existence.
    If the few exhausted refugees in boats in the Channel really cause such fear in Britain, it is surely easier to employ more civil servants in London to assess asylum claims much quicker so that status can be decided, rather than call for more ships and planes and customs checks etc in a hapless attempt to stop a tiny proportion of the world’s refugees.

    • Keefogs, regardless of whether they can speak English, are well educated, have the money to be able to get on these ILLEGAL boats, they are still breaking the law of asylum as supported by the EU and the UN.

      The law of asylum states that for asylum, you declare the the first safe haven, as I pointed out in my first comment. These tend to be Balkan or Mediterranean countries.

      Many of these people that come across are not asylum seekers, for if they were they would stop at the safe haven and wait while being sheltered by the state that takes them on to be processed and moved to a more suitable location. Instead they break the lines of state sovereignty by making MULTIPLE ILLEGAL crossings through these countries.

      By that, they become economic immigrants. I do not fault them for wanting a better life, but if you want to see true poverty, and for an extra kicker actual fascism in action, look at Venezuela; ruled by a dictator that states that nation is foremost regardless if you starve while he reaps the wealth of many for himself.

      In short, I am happy for those who need shelter to be here, but only if they go through due process. It is not my fault, nor the fault of any who support may view, nor the fault of anyone who disagrees with my view that their country collapsed in whatever way it did, and I will not allow myself or other people who take a stance to be bullied by people who have no argument other than radical words.

  7. There seems to be a bit of fantasy here – people pretending that asylum seekers live in the lap of luxury with the government showering them with gifts. Where on earth are you getting this from??? Read the parliamentary report on ‘Accommodation for Asylum Seekers’ – harrowing descriptions of children living in over-crowded, rat-infested bedsits; these people being denied access to medicine or even food. The report concluded that our government’s response was wholly inadequate. Meanwhile, others have a couple of houses here, one in London and a quaint little villa in France (my local Tory MP). There may not be a shortage of houses if some very selfish people didn’t feel they need 4 or 5 of them.

  8. There is an argument doing the rounds that goes something like this “they can’t be genuine refugees, because they don’t stay in France / because they can apply for asylum elsewhere but choose not to”. It sounds logical on the surface, but it ignores how refugees tend to behave historically. Hopefully none of us would argue that Jews feeling Nazi Germany weren’t ‘genuine’. And yet those Jews who were fleeing persecution of the worst kind did not all stop in the first safe country they reached; they travelled under dangerous conditions to countries across the globe, many choosing to travel as far as the USA. See the recent episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” (BBC) featuring Ruby Wax. It’s very illuminating about the choices people make when trying to escape persecution, and the obstacles they face. Ruby’s ancestors were trying to escape Vienna after Kristallnacht; sadly not all of them made it.

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