Refugee rights activists gather in Dover amid fears of disruption from far-right

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Protesters have gathered at the port of Dover to show their support for refugees reaching the UK in small boats.

There were fears of violence ahead of Saturday 5 September with right-wing anti-immigrant groups also announcing their intention to assemble in the Kent town.

It comes despite pleas from local MP Natalie Elphicke to “stay away” to prevent a second wave of coronavirus (Covid-19).

“Refugees welcome”

On Friday 4 September, the words “Rise above fear. Refugees welcome” were beamed onto the White Cliffs of Dover by humanitarian charity Freedom From Torture.

A heavy police presence is in place in the town, with large concentrations of officers in Market Square and the railway station.

Various groups had announced their intention to travel to Dover on 5 September to either show their support or voice opposition to refugees coming to the UK.

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The White Cliffs of Dover lit up with a series of projections in support of migrant welfare

The White Cliffs of Dover lit up with a series of projections in support of migrant welfare (Freedom from Torture/POW)

“We are not those people”

Refugee rights activists gathered in Market Square in a demonstration organised by Kent Anti Racism Network.

Addressing a crowd of about 100, Peter Keenan from Kent Refugee Help said when society sees people who are fleeing war and turns them away “that says something about the state of your society”.

He continued:

We are not those people. We are standing up and welcoming people who are in desperate circumstances fleeing from awful situations.

Meanwhile, those with right-wing views, who are opposed to the refugees entering the country, were expected to try and “shut the port down”.

Anti-racist group Hope Not Hate had raised concerns in advance of the event that there will be violence. It also warned that splintered elements of the British far-right may travel to Dover.

Police response

Chief superintendent Nigel Brookes from Kent Police said:

As a force, it is our responsibility to facilitate peaceful protests, however we will not tolerate violence or disorder.

Anyone planning to visit Dover with the intention of committing offences should be aware they are not welcome here and that we will seek to prosecute anyone who breaks the law.

The total number of refugees who have crossed the sea to Britain in 2020 is now more than 5,600, analysis by the PA news agency shows.

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