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Far-right groups in UK target hotels housing Afghan refugees

The Guardian logo The Guardian 25/10/2021 Diane Taylor
Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The evacuation of thousands of Afghan refugees to the UK after Kabul fell to the Taliban has triggered an increase in far-right groups targeting hotels where they are being accommodated, according to those monitoring the activities of extremist groups.

Britain First is one of the most prominent organisations involved and, according to its own website, has made more than a dozen unsolicited visits in recent weeks to hotels housing Afghan refugees in areas including Telford, Stoke-on-Trent and Colchester.

Hope Not Hate, the charity which monitors the activities of the far right, says the resettlement schemes for Afhans have became a focal point for many of these groups. It says the arrival of the refugees has led to the far right “reviving, and refining, similar attacks used during the Syria crisis”.

The charity says the far right is using Islamophobic narratives such as the “Muslim takeover of Europe”, framing refugees as potential terrorists or sexual predators.

Britain First and For Britain, another far-right political party, claim to be concerned about the cost of the resettlement
 of Afghan refugees to UK taxpayers. For Britain has focused on claiming the new migration will increase unemployment among British workers.

Patriotic Alternative, a white nationalist political group, is promoting a “Write to your MP” action for its followers, to protest about the resettlement of Afghans in the UK. They have also done a series of banner drops with the words “We Will Not Be Replaced”, including one in the constituency of the home secretary, Priti Patel.

The Britain First hotel visits are sometimes fronted by the organisation’s leader, Paul Golding, centre. © Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images The Britain First hotel visits are sometimes fronted by the organisation’s leader, Paul Golding, centre.

The Britain First hotel visits – sometimes fronted by the organisation’s leader, Paul Golding, and Ashlea Simon, who describes herself as chief of staff of the party – follow a similar formula.

Video: See what's happening to Afghan refugees arriving in the UK (CNN)

Related: Shoeless, shivering, passing out: Afghan refugees arrive in the UK

The videos start with the same music and then show shots, possibly promotional material from the hotels’ websites, of luxurious bedrooms and communal areas.

The far-right activists then film themselves turning up at these hotels trying to find the refugees who they incorrectly describe as illegal immigrants.

They approach them either inside the hotels or in the grounds, ask them where they’re from and if they’re waiting for a house. When challenged by hotel staff they say they are filming for social media, without volunteering the name of the organisation they belong to. At that point they are usually escorted or ordered off the hotel premises.

Britain First say that they have been barred from various social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. Instead, they urge supporters to download the Telegram app where they broadcast many of their anti-migrant hotel videos.

According to Hope Not Hate, some of these recent videos posted on Telegram have received 40,000 views.

Far-right YouTuber Paul Joseph Watson has recently posted about negative Tripadvisor reviews from British visitors to a Scarborough hotel which is accommodating Afghan refugee families. Far-right groups have urged their supporters to post negative reviews on Tripadvisor about hotels where Afghan refugees are being accommodated.

Britain First recently held a flash protest outside a hotel housing Afghan refugees near Wigan. They made allegations that male refugees at the hotel were sexually harassing schoolgirls, claims that police said were baseless. It is not the first time the far right have made these false claims.

Similar claims were made that asylum seekers accommodated at Napier barracks in Folkestone were sexually harassing local schoolgirls. When police investigated the claims they found that the school was closed at the time of the alleged incidents. The information was obtained in freedom of information requests obtained by the Guardian from Kent county Council.

A spokesperson for 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.

“They are using Islamophobic narratives of a ‘Muslim takeover of Europe’, framing refugees as potential terrorists or sexual predators, and underpinning these with a rejection of the political system to offer a hateful alternative.”

Britain First has been approached for comment.


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