Fear and loathing in Dover as Brexit voters turn on migrants

Immigration issues have dominated the UK's referendum campaign

Migration. From the start, it's been the big button-pressing issue of Britain's EU Referendum. It's the debate that gave Nigel Farage's UK Independence Party the momentum to put pressure on the Prime Minister to hold the EU vote in the first place. 

In recent weeks, it's been thrown into the spotlight by UKIP's now infamous 'Breaking Point' poster of a long line of refugees entering the EU in Slovenia. Even Farage's Leave colleague Michael Gove said he "shuddered" when he saw it, while Chancellor George Osborne said it was a throwback to Nazi propaganda of the 1930s.

The immigration debate is at its most intent on England's south coast, the frontier with continental Europe. It's the most fertile ground for Brexiteers, where imagery of undocumented migrants 'flooding' the Channel Tunnel or stowing away in lorries has sparked heated demonstrations by xenophobic groups like Britain First. 

In Dover, perhaps the most famous port in the United Kingdom, the tensions have boiled over. 

"It's raped Kent," said Camilla, a woman in her sixties. "Funny the terrorists never go for the Channel Tunnel".

Her husband Derek was equally angry: "I can't get a doctor's appointment because there's too many people," he said.

"It's not individuals. They say they help the economy. Well, they don't bloody help it when they hang around street corners all threatening. Bloody useless lot and all they do is ponce about. It's a nonsense. I have no time for any of it". 

The official Leave campaign has distanced itself from any such sentiments. However, there is no escaping the visceral nature of the fears and xenophobia which currently has stalked the campaign.

It's become a particular worry among working class Brits, beleaguered with the political establishment.

"It's as if they've taken over the place. I am a true Brit," said one man in his sixties, who didn't want to be identified. "I just feel it's not my country any more. They're not the same as us. They don't talk to us. They never use the busses. They never go for a pint. They just don't mix."

"My dad is a 66-year-old Irish man. He's anti-immigration"

 Those views provoke some disgust among the student activists attending a Remain rally in London last night. The #YesToEurope demonstration was a last ditch attempt to stimulate the same level of enthusiasm among pro-EU voters as there has been among their opponents. 

"We see ourselves as world citizens. We won't get anywhere if we don't help each other out," said one activist, holding a sign saying 'Don't EU want me baby'. 

Amanda is a second-generation Irish student from London. 

"My dad is a 66-year-old Irish man. He's a bricklayer. He's anti-immigration for some reason," she says. "He immigrated here himself in the sixties." 

"I'd like my Irish cousins to be able to move here. It doesn't make any sense to leave."

Prime Minister David Cameron and the rest of the Remain camp will be hoping like-minded younger voters will turn out in numbers on Thursday to prevent a Brexit. The very future of civil political debate in Britain may depend on it.