Visits to hotels housing asylum seekers from self-proclaimed “migrant hunters” more than doubled in 2022 from the previous year, according to new research. Currently, over 40,000 refugees are living in more than 200 hotels across the UK, as they await their asylum applications to be processed. The presence of the asylum seekers has led to an upsurge in activity by hard-right groups, who have staged numerous protests outside accommodation housing the migrants.
According to data collated by the anti-fascist and anti-racism group Hope Not Hate, hard-right activists made 253 visits to hotels where asylum seekers were living over the course of last year.
It claimed most of the protesters posed as journalists so as to get close to the accommodation housing the refugees, before using abusive and threatening language towards them and hotel staff.
The so-called “migrant hunters” often film their demonstrations and then post them to social media channels and far-right websites in an attempt to stir up hatred among local communities where the asylum seekers are living.
The videos appear to be attracting an ever increasing audience, according to research by the Center for Countering Digital Hate.
Analysts found that anti-migrant demonstrations in the UK have been viewed almost 44 million times on Twitter and YouTube.
The three major hotspots for migrant hunter activity are around Dover, northwest England and Yorkshire.
Nick Lowles, chief executive of Hope Not Hate, blamed the rise in anti-migrant activity around hotels on the “repeated demonization and scapegoating of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees by the Government and the media”.
He said: “This rhetoric shapes hostile public opinion and encourages the far right. There is a very dark side to this anti-migrant activity.
“Hope not Hate’s research shows that the Dover firebomber consumed migrant-hunter content before he attacked a migrant-processing site and we saw 400 people demonstrating in Kirkby, setting a police van on fire and letting off fireworks.
“The question is not whether this will happen again, but what the Government is going to do to ensure it doesn’t.
“Politicians and the media need to take real responsibility and drop their line of inflammatory language that feeds and enables the far right.
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“It is within their power to deal with backlogs and find more suitable accommodation, to give service providers information and equip them to respond to community tensions, and to take the far-right threat seriously.”
The cost to the UK taxpayer of housing asylum seekers is more than £5.5 million per day.
The Home Office expects to spend £2.3 billion on accommodation for refugees this year, with about 65,000 expected to cross the Channel in small boats.
On Saturday, far-right protesters staged another demonstration outside a Holiday Inn in Rotherham that is housing asylum seekers.
The former BBC Newsnight journalist Lewis Goodwill tweeted from the scene of the protest.
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He wrote: “Huge police presence on the outskirts of Rotherham for far right protest and counter protest outside a Holiday Inn Express housing asylum seekers.
“We understand it’s one of five such far right events organized for this weekend.
The far-right activists were met by a counter-demonstration from members of the group Stand Up To Racism, amid a large police presence.
In a video clip shared to their Twitter page, demonstrators from Stand Up To Racism can be heard chanting: “Say it loud, say it proud, refugees are welcomed here!”