Welcome to Skegness? The resort that fears it’s now better known for migrants than donkey rides, candy floss and ice cream
- Hotels on the seafront in tourist town Skegness being used to house migrants
- Read more: Far-Right activists stage demonstration against asylum seeker hotels
A miserable March night in Skegness and snow is falling. Big soggy flakes lit by amusement arcade neon. The streets are horror-film deserted and the giant seafront bars have closed early, but Busters fun pub is hanging on. So is the old man on stage doing karaoke.
Clutching a microphone in one hand, he leans heavily on a stick with the other. Age – he’s 83 – has added a richness to the timbre of his voice and he’s already delighted his audience with Always On My Mind. Now he’s about to launch into Somebody Told Me by The Killers.
Next door, a poster outside the ex-servicemen’s club promises a Sunday afternoon’s entertainment in April with Bruce Jones, who used to play Les Battersby in Coronation Street. ‘We get all the big names,’ jokes a member. ‘Even out of season.’
Locals revel in the town’s tongue-in-cheek nickname, Skeg Vegas, and they need their sense of humour, now more than ever. For one thing, the town, though popular, keeps getting sniffy reviews.
But Skegness is used to this and remains defiantly unhip. The American writer Bill Bryson called it ‘the most traditional of any English seaside resort’.
The American writer Bill Bryson called Skegness ‘the most traditional of any English seaside resort’
Far more troubling is that, through no fault of its own, Skegness has come to exemplify our creaking immigration system: something it fears will keep holidaymakers away this summer – and see businesses go to the wall
Further along the seafront, opposite the Arnold Palmer Putting Course, you find the reason: a row of hotels and boarding houses crammed with hundreds of migrants
Far more troubling is that, through no fault of its own, it has come to exemplify our creaking immigration system: something it fears will keep holidaymakers away this summer – and see businesses go to the wall. Further along the seafront, opposite the Arnold Palmer Putting Course, you find the reason: a row of hotels and boarding houses crammed with hundreds of migrants.
Many of them, like the young man from Kurdistan drawing heavily on a cigarette outside, who says he crossed the Channel on a small boat, are in Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman’s crosshairs.
As The Mail on Sunday revealed last week, the Government has made it a priority to put a brake on the ‘human rights’ farce which allows migrants to resist deportation. Last year, it emerged that the Home Office was managing to process just four per cent of asylum claims from people who crossed the Channel in 2021.
For now, housing asylum seekers in hotels across the UK continues to cost taxpayers £5.6 million a day. Skegness hoteliers receive more than £10,000 a week to close their doors to tourists and house migrants instead. ‘Those owners who have accepted the Home Office money tend not to live in the area,’ says Ross Richardson, events manager at the Savoy hotel, which rejected the offer.
The Government has made it a priority to put a brake on the ‘human rights’ farce which allows migrants to resist deportation
Many migrants, like the young man from Kurdistan drawing heavily on a cigarette outside, who says he crossed the Channel on a small boat, are in Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman’s crosshairs
Suella Braverman listened as Rishi Sunak spoke during a press conference after the launch of new legislation on migrant channel crossings
‘We turned it down because the owner is local and doesn’t want it to impact on tourism. Overall in this town you’ve got 400 beds taken up with migrants and these are block-booked for another year at least.
‘That’s 400 beds that would normally be filled with holidaymakers come for the summer – people, unlike the migrants, who spend money in the town.
‘And then there are all the holidaymakers deterred from coming to Skegness because of what’s happened. We lost thousands in cancelled bookings over Christmas because of the migrants. We’re really worried about what’s going to happen when the season begins.’
A police car pulls up outside one of the asylum hotels. The Kurdish smoker says there was an altercation earlier between a local and an Arab man. ‘We get abuse from people driving by in cars,’ he says. ‘We don’t cause trouble.’
READ MORE: Hundreds of far-Right activists led by ‘Hitler-lookalike’ stage demonstration against asylum seeker hotels in Lincolnshire weeks after riots in Merseyside
How does he like Skegness? He shrugs and stubs his cigarette out in a wall-mounted ashtray. ‘It’s not what I expected of England,’ he says before the bitter North Sea wind hastens him back inside.
The migrants can’t afford to avail themselves of the resort’s plentiful attractions: donkey rides, candy floss, jet-skiing, casinos, arcades, the amusement park, among many others. Generally they remain indoors.
Police insist the migrants haven’t pushed up crime. Still, many of the locals – women in particular – find their presence unsettling.
At the Coffee House cafe in the town centre, there are complaints from women about being followed by the migrants.
‘I get my husband to pick me up if I’m out later than expected,’ says one. ‘They’re always men under 30, never families. If there were kids there I’d be straight over with a bag of toys and clothes. This is a close-knit community, we look out for each other. I know they have to live somewhere but you can understand why people are frustrated.’
A total of 72,027 asylum applications were made in Britain in the year ending September 2022, more than double the number in 2019. Almost all of them were from people who arrived on small boats crossing the Channel. Where to put them is a massive problem.
Amanda Taylor-Watson works on the front desk at the seal sanctuary close to the asylum hotels. ‘We’re open all year round,’ she says. ‘It’s quiet now but in the summer we often have 1,800 people a day. Whether that’s still the case, we’ll have to see.
‘People love Skegness and come back year after year. But I’m already hearing about regulars looking elsewhere because of this situation.’
Once Skegness was synonymous with Butlin’s. In 1935, the South Africa-born William ‘Billy’ Butlin began clearing 200 acres of turnip fields to make way for his first UK holiday camp.
‘It would be awful if businesses now have to close and the town becomes better known for its many migrants rather than for having fun,’ says Mrs Taylor-Watson.
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