An iconic British seaside resort has become a “powder keg” after tension between residents and asylum seekers threatened to erupt.
Police in Skegness, Lincolnshire, were forced to ban young people from congregating on the resort’s seafront – making it a no-go area for troublemakers.
Officers are now gearing up for a protest march next weekend by residents angered by the high number of young male refugees being housed in the town.
It follows violent clashes between protesters and police in Liverpool, when angry crowds rioted outside a migrant center.
Meanwhile, police arrested two men yesterday after hundreds of rival protesters faced off outside a Rotherham hotel also housing dozens of asylum seekers.
South Yorkshire Police kept them apart fearing a repeat of the rioting outside a hotel being used for refugees in Kirkby, Merseyside, last Friday.
The tension in Skegness has grown after hundreds of migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Albania were crammed into former tourist hotels on the seafront.
All the hotels’ staff were sacked apart from a few cleaners and security guards equipped with body cameras and walkie-talkies, who usher the guests in and out.
One Skegness resident said: “I know of at least one woman carrying a hunting knife when she walks her dog late at night because she doesn’t feel safe on the seafront. It’s stupid, it’s illegal but she’s doing it out of fear.”
Cars have been vandalised, shop windows broken, mattresses set alight and scuffles reported between migrants and security staff. Officials say 229 asylum seekers are staying in up to seven hotels on and around the town’s promenade, but locals say the figure is more like 700.
Hotelier Nigel Under-wood, 54, said: “Some of them came with tuberculosis and needed a full medical when locals cannot even see their GP.”
“The first we knew was when three or four coachloads showed up in November.”
“People have been shocked. Ladies are feeling very threatened because they are all men in their early 20s.”
“They’re hanging around in groups at the nightclub entrances when the girls are coming out. It’s a powder keg.”
The new arrivals are given £11 a day “pocket money” and have little to do but play cricket and football on the seafront bowling greens and sit on the hotel steps, smoking and drinking coffee.
An elderly woman, who also did not want to be named, said: “I have to walk past them every day and I’m scared to death. I just want them to go away.”
A 60-year-old hotelier, whose business is sandwiched between two of the buildings being used to house the migrants, said: “I am not happy, especially after what went on in Merseyside. A couple of days ago one of my tenants had her car headlight smashed when an asylum seeker was fighting a security guard. The fire service was out last week because the asylum seekers had set fire to their mattresses.”
She said that broken furniture and other junk has been piling up outside the hotels as they become increasingly dilapidated.
The woman, who has run her hotel for 16 years, added: “People have been shouting abuse at the asylum seekers, who have been shouting back and asking them out for fights.”
Social media agitators have descended on the town. Holidaymakers have been calling hotels to check if asylum seekers are nearby and canceling bookings if they are.
Hotelier Julie Anne Bunce, 57, said: “A lot of what is being said about the asylum seekers is malicious gossip and lies. But I don’t think they should be on the seafront. The seafront is for tourists. Business-wise, it is absolutely crucifying us. It is the worst two months we’ve had in 22 years. We are almost empty.”
The hotels are owned by absentee landlords who are raking in more than £10,000 a week from Home Office block bookings.
Matt Warman, Conservative MP for Boston and Skegness, said: “There is a reputational risk to the town. The longer this goes on the more stark it is going to be.”
Lincolnshire Police issued a dispersal order banning young people from congregating and engaging in anti-social behavior along the entire seafront last week.
The force is now preparing for the “Enough is Enough” march on Saturday.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The welfare of asylum seekers in our care is of the utmost importance and any attempts to fuel resentment towards them are completely unacceptable.”
Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said: “It’s important to remember that these are people who have escaped war and persecution, including the tyranny of the Taliban, the bombs and bullets of the Syrian civil war and the brutal beatings in Iran. “
“It’s appalling to hear reports of them being harassed in our country after they turned to us for protection.”