By Jo Turner 

On Channel 4 News this week Sally-Ann Hart, MP for Hastings and Rye, was interviewed about her party’s policy on refugees and also her own personal poor record of behaviour online which brought about an investigation by her own party. In the interview Hart referred to some local residents as ‘angry’ about the arrival of refugees. In fact many Hastings residents are not ‘angry’ as she proclaims, but instead want to help and support asylum seekers struggling to come to our shores as they seek help and a new life.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy in his Ch4 News interview referred to a letter signed by a small group of MPs, including Ms Hart. In the letter Hart and other MPs urge Government to “…do whatever it takes” to stop landings and Guru-Murthy asks Hart what is meant by that phrase. While she gave no clear response to his question, reports in the Telegraph this week state that Home Office Minister Priti Patel could call in the Royal Navy to support the Border Force which raises questions about what “do whatever it takes…” could mean in reality. 

PICTURE: Aran MacDermott

My response to Sally-Ann Hart’s ongoing indifference and apparent ignorance of the plight of human beings was to join concerned residents in a quiet, socially distanced protest outside Tory HQ in Hastings. We wanted to demonstrate that we are residents who welcome refugees and asylum seekers. Present at the protest were various groups with experience and understanding of the issues, including Care 4 Calais (who have seen close up the appalling conditions in camps), Hastings Supports Refugees, Black Lives Matter and the local Labour Party. We demonstrated that refugees are welcome and we want to do everything they can to support human beings in need. In a letter to the Guardian on Tuesday 11th August, another Hastings resident Dr Felicity Laurence also challenges the notion that there is anger and frustration. She writes, ‘There is another compassionate public whose anger and frustration is directed not at our beleaguered fellow human beings, but at government’. 

PICTURE: Paul Barnett

Sally-Ann Hart’s views do not represent me, nor many other people in Hastings and Rye. My own work supporting refugees and asylum seekers for over a decade gave me an education into the struggles many have been through. Some have seen things no human should see. Young people have described witnessing family die or be killed in front of them. Their environment and lack of work has forced many to look elsewhere. Wars, floods, death, brutality and sexual exploitation have been experienced by many. The vast majority on arrival, in my experience, want to study and work hard to achieve, despite their experiences. They simply want a safe home as any human being would want. Hart in the interview agrees it’s “clear that we have got huge capacity to take on refugees”. So why potentially whip up such fear and hate? She refers to a “surge in illegal immigrants”. 

As a constituent of Hastings and Rye I am neither angry nor bear witness to a surge of refugees but I see a few tiny boats with human beings so desperate they are willing to risk their own lives. Yes they need to find a safe route, but they need help, not sending back to potentially unsafe situations. 

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