The Home Office recorded 70 racist incidents by far-right supporters against asylum seekers in barracks and hotels, according to a freedom of information response obtained by the Guardian.
However, activists supporting asylum seekers in such accommodation say this figure is a significant underestimation of reality.
The data, which covers January 1, 2020 through July 13 of this year, relates to incidents at the much-maligned barracks in Napier and Penally – which came under scrutiny by MPs after their disclosure was made. untenable conditions, as well as a large-scale Covid epidemic. in the old one.
The Pembrokeshire Criminal Barracks in Wales were closed in March – although it was not opened until September 2020 – along with Napier, in Folkestone, Kent. Hotels were used throughout the period but their use for asylum seekers increased sharply after the start of the Covid pandemic in March 2020.
At Napier Barracks, four incidents were recorded between September and December 2020 – 12 of which have occurred so far this year. This despite the fact that the barracks were temporarily emptied in April after the coronavirus epidemic. There are now reportedly 176 asylum seekers living there.
Only one incident at Penally Barracks was reported to the Home Office last year and none in 2021. However, witness statements to court challenges by asylum seekers living there reveal a catalog of episodes disturbing, including an attempt to ram a refugee with a car. Others include: throwing stones and bottles, threats of rape, attempts to fight, fireworks shot through the door and leggings. According to witness statements, an agricultural store in the area said some of the far-right supporters had asked to buy pigeon scarers to mimic the sound of gunfire and frighten asylum seekers.
The number of recorded incidents in hotels has tripled this year, with 40 reported instances, up from 13 last year.
On Saturday 7 August, far-right organization Britain First posted on its website a video titled “Britain First Exposing Hotel to Illegal Immigrants in Hull” in which members of the organization say they impersonated journalists to confront asylum seekers.
An asylum seeker from Yemen has experienced two incidents involving far-right protesters at his Home Office-provided hotel on the outskirts of London.
âThey were driving around the hotel videotaping us,â he said. âThey insulted us, cursed us and shouted things like ‘Get out of our country, why are you eating our food, get away from us, you are strangers here.’ We were too scared to leave the hotel and felt like it was a prison we had to stay in.
He added, âWe fled from countries where there is a lot of torture and persecution and we felt safe when we arrived here. But when we saw this kind of racist attack, we felt that we were not protected.
Maddie Harris, Humans for Rights Network, said: âThe ghettoization of people seeking safety in large-scale housing such as hotels and army barracks puts them in danger. The numbers presented here are not an accurate representation of the level of racial abuse suffered by the people we support. We have had many conversations with asylum seekers where they have told us how unsafe they feel due to the frequent incidents of racial abuse they have suffered in and around these accommodations.
Clare Moseley, Founder of Care4Calais, said: âTargeting vulnerable asylum seekers is an act of extreme cowardice. Our government must help asylum seekers integrate into our communities rather than placing them in places like the Napier barracks or large hotels.
A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said: âIt is unacceptable that anyone staying in accommodation for asylum seekers is confronted with hostile or racist incidents and we ensure that every incident is addressed. ‘a thorough investigation. We work closely with a range of organizations to ensure immediate support and assistance to people living in the accommodation and, if necessary, pass it on to law enforcement. “