Home: Opinion

This morning on a Kent beach

Farage wants us to fear migrants arriving on our shores. But his footage of them is accidentally beautiful, and fills me with hope.

Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
7 August 2020, 11.56am
Migrants arriving on a Kent beach

I’ve been haunted by a video Nigel Farage posted on twitter yesterday. I woke up dreaming about it. Headed in capital letters EXCLUSIVE FOOTAGE OF BEACH LANDING BY MIGRANTS. It apparently shows a “Shocking invasion on the Kent Coast taken this morning”.

It’s just over a minute in length. Eight adults and perhaps five children have just got out of a small inflatable dingy and are discarding their life vests and clambering up the beach. It is filmed from a boat out at sea with a telephoto lens. 

One of the men looks towards the boat and gestures with both hands, another waves at us with one arm. Then they turn, as a companion hoists a young child onto his shoulders and the group starts to walk up the beach to the horizon. Led by young men, two of them carrying infants and followed by women struggling to get older children over the stony surface. 

Of course, it could have been staged. But the children make me think it is real as they draw our sympathy. 

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The most striking thing about the footage is that it is extraordinary beautiful.

It not only looks beautiful, it feels beautiful. 

They have arrived on the promised land.

What future lies ahead for the children? Are they going to be England’s engineers and builders, or does a terrible future of abuse lie ahead of them? What have they left behind? These are not your classic ‘economic migrant’ seeking an income to send home. These are perhaps two families, maybe related, driven from their home and fleeing the intolerable conditions of refugee camps. 

Are they from Iraq, perhaps? There would be some justice to that. For it was there that the British first bombed civilians when they crushed the 1920 Iraq revolution that called for a non-sectarian democracy. It was there that Blair assisted the disastrous American occupation of 2003 that really was an “invasion”. 

What is the first thing you do when you get out of dingy and carry a child on your shoulders up over the beach into the rising sun? My guess is that they moved swiftly to get a signal for their mobile phones and that they have contacts who will collect them. 

Will they then ask for asylum? Will they live and work illegally? How will the children get schooling, especially in these days of COVID and social distancing? The small party’s energy, lack of fear and sense of purpose makes me feel confident that they will be OK. 

This too feels beautiful.

What, then, is so disturbing? It’s the perspective. The filming is being done from a boat spying on migrants seeking to cross the channel. We are not watching them from the land as they ‘invade’ an overcrowded island. We are seeing them land on an empty shore line, wave and leave us. We are in Brexit Britain, bobbing helplessly on the waves. They are arriving on a promising land to help build it anew.

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