6 December 2021
The Bill focuses significantly on institutional accommodation centres for people seeking asylum, suggesting an expansion of their usage and a move away from community accommodation. We believe that the institutional accommodation for asylum seekers poses a significant safety risk, as well as inhibiting integration. Institutional accommodation centres would limit opportunities for people to become part of their new communities, and increase people’s risk of being targeted by the far-right.
We call on MPs to amend the Bill to remove their expansion and instead replace them with a centrally funded dispersal system with decent housing in communities.
Accommodation centres: targets of hate
Since the summer of 2020, we have seen widespread activity among far right activists calling themselves ‘citizen journalists’ and ‘migrant hunters’. These activists have been joined by organised far-right groups like Britain First and Patriotic Alternative . They have filmed the beaches of the south coast and ‘hunted’ arriving migrants and asylum seekers. They have broken into hotels, harassed staff and chased residents who had been placed in contingency accommodation by the Home Office.
Their videos, some chasing arrivals with cameras, others featuring angry rants in B&B lobbies, quickly spread across far-right social media platforms and whipped anti-immigrant activists into a peak of anger.
HOPE not hate has recorded activity at hotels providing accommodation to people seeking asylum on at least 64 occasions. Meanwhile, in a survey of refugee support organisations, refugee action found that 75% of respondents (27) had received disclosures from their clients of verbal abuse or harassment by members of the public in the last 6 months. A quarter (25%) had received disclosures of physical violence from members or the public.
Proposals for replacing community accommodation for asylum seekers with institutional accommodation centres not only inhibits integration and traps residents in isolated, detention-like settings, but poses a risk for further harassment and violence.
Proposal: Instead of housing asylum seekers in institutional asylum accommodation centres, the Government should offer decent housing in communities across the country through a centrally funded dispersal system.
Far right activists determined to attack migrants
Moreover, the Home Office should be aware of these, given recent charges for terrorism given to a new far-right group advocating terror that has been recruiting minors to its ranks via Instagram and Telegram. Our research uncovered the leader of the British Hand, a 15 year old in Derby, had posted that he was planning an attack against Dover migrants, he received support from other members in the group. Other members similarly stressed their willingness to commit violent attacks on migrants in a group that discussed how to acquire weapons and how to hide their political views in order to enlist in the military.
The very real threat of the far right on asylum accommodation, and the increased risk with the proposed move from community accommodation to accommodation centres, should be taken seriously as an active terror threat. In Germany in 2015-2016, at the height of Europe’s “refugee crisis”, organisation Pro Asyl counted 126 arson attacks on refugee accommodation, one every three days.
Yet the Home Office seem to have not yet grasped the potential threat that accommodation centres could pose. Having reached out to accommodation providers and asylum organisations offering direct support over the last year, we found many were concerned about the threat of the far right, yet were given no guidance on what they could do to mitigate risks.
In the Home Office’s equality impact assessment for using Ministry of Defence Sites to Accommodate Asylum Seekers – including Napier barracks – we found no mention of the far-right threat, or even local opposition. We found no mentions of ‘terror’, ‘extremism/extremist’, ‘far-right’/ ‘far right’, in the UKVI Suitability Assessment for Contingency Accommodation, nor in Letter from the Home Secretary on institutional accommodation and documents relating to Napier barracks, dated 18 March 2021. It appears the threat has not been considered at all in the decision to move towards accommodation centres and away from community accommodation where these threats are more easily mitigated.
Proposal: The Home Office must take the threat of the far right seriously when making a decision on accommodation for asylum seekers. They must step up their game on safeguarding residents of Home Office managed accommodation from harassment and threats from the far-right.
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