Immigration minister Robert Jenrick was “shocked” by the scale of migrants arriving in Dover communities after landing on nearby beaches in small boats, local residents have said.
Mr Jenrick spent about an hour on Friday listening to stories of families with local MP Natalie Elphicke as he visited homes in Aycliffe.
It comes after Ms Elphicke criticised Home Secretary Suella Braverman a day earlier for failing to send an official to the south-east coast to better understand the situation first hand.
Last week police were reportedly called to a home in Aycliffe where a man had gone to ask to use a phone after a group of migrants landed on a beach nearby.
Aycliffe residents told the PA news agency that Mr Jenrick heard how migrants have been arriving every day and trespassing into homes and gardens.
Kerryanne Jones, 47, one of the residents, said: “It was very helpful to speak to him directly to get our point across as a community … of how much of an impact it’s having on people’s normal daily life.”
She said that Mr Jenrick listened to their stories, spoke to them about the situation at Manston and said “things will get easier”.
“But he wasn’t aware of the actual amounts that were coming in onto our beach and then onto our estate,” she said.
“I think Mr Jenrick was shocked to be fair of the impact over the last three weeks that it’s had on Aycliffe but he totally understands from what we’ve told him of how our community is feeling.”
Asked about whether they feel hopeful the Government can tackle the issue, she said: “I think there will be actions taken for the whole of the community because feeling in Aycliffe is running quite high and none of us should be worrying about who is coming into our house.”
Ms Jones added that she thinks Government ministers need to be paying more attention to the situation on the ground in Kent.
“The whole system’s just at crisis point,” she said. “It’s an absolute nightmare.”
Asked about why the Government has so far failed to respond, Jes Parker, 30, who also lives in Aycliffe said: “There’s definitely a lack of communication between everyone higher up at the moment and I think they should have their ear closer to the ground of like how many people are actually coming in and where they are being taken to.
“It’s just gobsmacking really.”
Ms Parker later added: “I think personally he didn’t realise how much of an impact it is having.”
Speaking to PA, Ms Elphicke said it was “really important” Mr Jenrick came and spoke to residents.
The MP for Dover and Deal said: “Today I invited the immigration minister to come and meet residents in Aycliffe and to meet with councillors here in Dover so he can understand what the experiences are like for people who live in Aycliffe – who have had recent beach landings, intrusions into their lives and into their homes – and meet the councillors to understand what the pressures are in our areas due to the small boat crossings.”
She said the information he received “will really help him be informed as he makes decisions in the Home Office”.
Speaking about her criticism of the Home Secretary failing to come to the area, the MP said: “I think it’s really important that the ministers listen to the experiences of the people on the ground here in Dover and Deal.”
Ms Elphicke said Mr Jenrick made a “really good call” in coming to visit, adding: “He came today, he listened and I’ll be meeting with him again in Parliament next week to see what further action can be taken to support our community here.”
She added that it has been “a really difficult” and “really concerning” time for residents and local services which have been “significantly stretched”.