After months of disruption, the Home Office has dropped plans to house 241 people seeking asylum in Stradey Park Hotel in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire. The Home Office’s statement comes due to “a number of practical and logistical challenges”, on a site that should never have been the focus of these proposals.
Over the past five months, Llanelli has been the focus of demonstrations against the use of a local hotel as asylum accommodation. These protests escalated into the erection of a semi-permanent camp – where there has been 24 hour coverage since May this year. Activists have deliberately stopped access to the hotel in order to disrupt the housing of asylum seekers, blocking skip lorries and even setting beds on fire.
Far-right figures have dipped in and out of the camp, stirring up hate, while local protestors have become increasingly hard-line. Violence against local politicians and security guards on site has worsened, while those who may have first joined the opposition out of mild concern now stand under “Welsh Lives Matter” and “White Lives Matter” banners, alongside those who have raided the hotel in balaclavas at night.
The far right are now claiming a victory in Llanelli, with activists from fascist groups Patriotic Alternative and Homeland calling it the “Gold Standard of Community Politics in action” and stating that protesters would now campaign against any other proposals to house asylum seekers in Wales. It therefore seems likely that the far right will seek to replicate the model elsewhere, when piggybacking on local campaigns around asylum accommodation.
The far right cannot be allowed to claim a victory. There are no winners here. The unworkability of the site was apparent from the start, but in the process, 95 people working in the hotel lost their jobs in the transfer of the contract over to Clearsprings. The hotel was gutted to cram people into the site, rendering it unusable – a great loss to the town’s tourist economy. All this was done at great expense to the taxpayer and in great profit to Clearsprings. The anger and hate stirred up in this community will long outlive Clearspring’s contract.
There is a lot to be done to repair divisions in Llanelli, a community fractured by a plan that should never have been approved. HOPE not hate has been working with the local community in Llanelli to push back against the far right and to start to heal divides. On Sunday 8 October, we joined others to host a family fun day in Llanelli, showcasing the welcoming, supportive and hopeful reality of the community.
But the Home Office must answer for creating a situation which allowed the far right to grow and spread, and must take action to ensure this does not happen elsewhere. Suella Braverman’s “hurricane of migration” approach is fuelling anti-migrant hatred, while policy failings over which she has control are leaving vulnerable people stuck in limbo, the targets of the far right in an asylum system that has effectively been outsourced to the hospitality industry. The same day the site cancellation in Llanelli was announced, the Home Office sent letters to asylum seekers to tell them they will return to the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, Dorset after a legionella outbreak.
The Home Office’s failure to treat people humanely has given the far right a free pass to rile up hate in communities across the country. HOPE not hate have recorded hundreds of incidents at asylum accommodation sites over the last three years, with far-right groups and anti-migrant activists actively breaking into accommodation sites to harass residents.
The situation that has unfolded in Llanelli is not a far right victory, but it should provide a loud message to the Home Office about their failings.
Sadly, as is so often the case, whenever there is conflict in the Middle East there is fallout on the streets of Britain. Unsurprisingly, some…
HOPE not hate can reveal violent messages from far-right activists threatening the use of crossbows ahead of a series of far-right demonstrations this weekend. Far-right…