In late October, reports emerged of far right groups targeting hotels where Afghan refugees were being accommodated. Britain First and other far right organisations say they are concerned at the cost of resettlement of Afghan refugees.
According to the Guardian, Britain First has made several unsolicited visits to hotels housing refugees, trying to approach refugees to ask them if they were waiting for a house. The group has also published videos showing luxurious rooms and communal areas, which according to the Guardian may be from promotional material from the hotels’ websites and incorrectly describe the Afghan refugees as illegal migrants.
Britain First had previously held a protest in front of the Britannia Hotel in Wigan, which accommodates refugees, alleging that male refugees had been sexually harassing schoolgirls. The police dismissed these claims and stated that no offence had been committed. A spokesperson for the organisation Hope Not Hate said: “It’s grimly predictable to see the far right harassing Afghan refugees where they are living. Immigration has long been a focus of the far right, but they have capitalised on the Afghan resettlement scheme to bring together Islamophobic tropes with anti-migrant hate.”
The Home Office has reportedly also been housing asylum seekers in a former courthouse, which has since become a tourist hostel. Before being used to house asylum seekers, the hostel offered guests “an authentic prison cell” to stay at. According to the Guardian, hundreds of migrants have been held in the facility, including people who were imprisoned in their home countries, such as Libya. The hostel has preserved many of the site’s former penal trappings, including cell windows and heavy old-fashioned cell doors, and it is made up of a mix of dormitories and smaller rooms and “cells.” The Home Office claims that the asylum seekers are staying in “regular hotel accommodation” and that the section of the building with cell-like hotel rooms is not accessible.
Internal Home Office email discussions on how to respond to the Guardian’s question were inadvertently sent to the Independent, which passed on the communications to the Guardian. One official told a colleague: “I’ve called them experience rooms to avoid saying prison. Can we say that no-one has stayed in court rooms or were they inappropriately placed there?” The emails also revealed that Home Office officials had visited the hostel on 25 October 2021 and discovered overcrowding and a courtroom “fully set.”
One asylum seeker staying there said: “Everything is so bad here. Some of us have been through Libya where we have been imprisoned or have been tortured in other places. It makes us feel very bad to be living in a prison building even though we are not locked in.” He also added: “We are all sleeping close together and we are worried that we will catch COVID.” Civil society groups have strongly criticised the government’s practices and the founder of Humans for Rights Network called for the closure of the centre and that residents be “provided with safe, secure accommodation that does not resemble a prison.”
- D. Taylor, “Far-right Groups in UK Target Hotels Housing Afghan Refugees,” The Guardian, 25 October 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/oct/25/far-right-groups-in-uk-target-hotels-housing-afghan-refugees
- D. Taylor, “Asylum Seekers in UK Housed in Converted Hostel with Prison Cells,” The Guardian, 29 October 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/oct/29/asylum-seekers-in-uk-housed-in-converted-hostel-with-prison-cells
- C. Graham, “Far Right Party Members Hold Protest Outside Wigan Asylum-Seeker Hotel,” Wigan Today, 27 September 2021, https://www.wigantoday.net/news/politics/far-right-party-members-hold-protest-outside-wigan-asylum-seeker-hotel-3397382
- Britain First Protest in the UK (Dan Kitwood, Getty Images, “Far Right Groups in UK Target Hotels Housing Afghan Refugees,” 25 October 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/oct/25/far-right-groups-in-uk-target-hotels-housing-afghan-refugees)