“Wacky” Ukip plans to house refugees on parkland would bring the Calais Jungle to Medway, says council leader Alan Jarrett.
Cllr Jarrett says he was astonished to receive an email from Medway Ukip leader Roy Freshwater suggesting the authority should buy 400 five-person tents, identify suitable parks, and “start preparations by running drainage, mains water and electricity supplies under parkland grass”.
In his email to cabinet members Cllr Freshwater refers to “worrying media coverage regarding homeless people in the EU who are determined to make new homes and lives in Germany and Britain.
“Difficult decisions can no longer be delayed and urgent contingency plans need to be put in place having regard to media coverage in France and more recently Greece.”
He asks the council to look at a “contingency plan for 2,000 homeless people”, saying that management errors at Calais and Dunkirk have led to a failure to cope with large influxes of people.
But Cllr Jarrett dismissed the idea as ridiculous. He said: “It beggars belief. It looks like Ukip want to bring the Jungle to Medway and all that goes with it.
“I replied saying we won’t assist with the refugee crisis until either the government grant full funding or they bring forward legislation to force councils to do it. They’ve offered funding for the first year and tapering funding after that. Well I’m afraid the cost of services doesn’t taper. That’s our long stated position. What an idea like that would do to community cohesion in Medway beggars belief.”
He said the Ukip plan went against the received wisdom of trying to integrate refugees, and that refugee camps such as the jungle were the least desired option – something that sprung up “organically” when authorities lost control.
He said: “That would lead to what we’re seeing in Calais. Here we are trying to regenerate Medway and someone comes up with a wacky idea to put a whole lot of tents up.”
Under Cllr Freshwater’s plans the cost of tents alone would be £200,000 but Cllr Jarrett warned the total cost of setting up such a camp and dealing with its impact would be far higher.
He said: “It’s a scenario where everyone loses out, including the refugees. You create a ghetto and all the problems that go with it. Safe to say these recommendations are not going to see the light of day at my cabinet.”