STATE OF HATE 2024 Feature

The Shifting Terrain of Anti-Migrant Activism


Anti-migrant hate has always been a central part of far-right politics in Britain. It has returned to the top of the extremist agenda with a dramatic increase in the amount of activism across the UK.

Anti-migrant activism rose once again last year; up by over 20% on 2022 which was itself a bumper twelve months for this corner of the movement. Far-right, anti-migrant activism took place on at least 278 days out of 365 in 2023.

Yet this figure still only presents a partial view of the situation. In 2022, visits to sites of temporary accommodation by so-called “migrant hunters”, to film and harass both staff and occupants, made up by far the largest component of this activism, with at least 247 such instances. Meanwhile, the number of demonstrations – generally regarded as the far right’s usual fare – lagged a long way behind, as only eight specifically anti-migrant protests took place that year.

In 2023, however, the huge surge in demonstrations which took place following a riot at the Suites Hotel in Kirkby, Merseyside meant that the split between these two forms of activism came closer to being 50:50. Altogether, there were at least 123 demonstrations, nearly an 18-fold increase on 2022, and 158 “migrant hunter” accommodation visits throughout 2023 as a whole.

In the early part of the year especially, the far right returned to the streets with a frequency not seen for many years. During a period of six weeks until the end of March 2023, the far right were mobilising for demonstrations around the country at a rate of over four a week.

From Kent to Cornwall and from Dorset to Renfrewshire, far-right activists either led campaigns, orchestrated accommodation visits or tried to insert themselves into local opposition movements against plans to house migrants nearby. Some demonstrations were flashes in the pan; mobilisations which either burned brightly for a short period, or struggled to get off the ground at all. Others, however, were much longer, drawn-out affairs, for example in Erskine, where 20 demonstrations took place throughout the year.

In the latter half of 2023, this picture changed once again. The energy and enthusiasm for demonstrations had dissipated, whilst the accommodation visits of the “migrant hunters” became more infrequent.

Taking their place has been a new form of “always-on” protest or “anti-migrant blockades” outside proposed accommodation sites.


In June 2023, HOPE not hate researchers David Lawrence and Safya Khan-Ruf analysed how and why anti-migrant activism had exploded in the first half of that year.

They focused on five key points: first, that far-right activists were capitalising on increasingly extreme language from the media and the Conservative Government; second, that there had been a concerted effort on the part of far-right activists to blur the lines between their protests and locally-led campaigns; third, that after the initial protest boom until March, demonstrations were more spaced out with organisers preferring more time to mobilise activists; fourth, that the demonstrations themselves were smaller but more extreme; and finally, that a constant air of instability hung over the movement, with the smallest spark having the potential to cause a surge in activism.

This attention on migrants, refugees and asylum seekers that was the primary focus of the far right in 2023 was by no means a new phenomenon. Such groups have been a consistent focus for the movement, which are commonly misunderstood as being a major cause of national decline. They are subjected to an array of rhetorical tropes.

These tropes tend to align around particular topics: injustices regarding supposedly preferential treatment provided to migrants over homeless Brits, especially armed forces veterans; the claims of profligate spending on services for migrants by the Government in the context of an economic downturn; the allegedly unique form of sexual threat posed by male migrants towards women and children near accommodation sites; and, increasingly, a supposed “invasion of fighting age men” (a phrase solely reserved by the far right for young Black and Brown men) who together are considered to pose an existential threat to the body politic.

These types of arguments and tropes are ubiquitous across far-right social media, disseminated on their accounts by leading figures in the movement. The spread of these talking points has been facilitated by the twin threat of a Conservative Government increasingly willing to engage in the kind of anti- migrant rhetoric that would ordinarily have been the preserve of the far right, and the normalisation of inflammatory arguments by the mainstream right- wing media.

This is not to say that the far right is satisfied with the Conservative Government and its approach to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. In 2023, the far right was quick to identify what it believed to be a gap between the tough talk of the Government, and the concrete impact on immigration levels, and on cross-Channel migration in particular.

The Government’s proposed policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, ruled unlawful by the UK Supreme Court in November 2023 and opposed in the House of Lords in January 2024, has also been met with widespread scepticism amongst the far right. PA’s leader Mark Collett, for example, has described the policy as “a publicity stunt intended to draw attention away from the real issue – record levels of LEGAL migration”, whilst “migrant hunter” Steve Laws has repeatedly criticised the Government for the policy’s cost and ineffectiveness.

Consequently, this has had an impact on the nature and tone of far-right demands. With a Conservative Government considered by the far right as too weak to act on immigration, and with the looming prospect of a new Labour Government in 2024 (which they perceive as weaker still), elements of the anti-migrant movement are becoming more hardline.

Whereas previously there existed a broad acceptance of “stop the boats” as the principle demand, these elements are hardening their position, resulting in explicit encouragement of activists to shift towards calls for repatriation. Indeed, for a small but growing number of activists in this space, this repatriation demand is beginning to extend beyond refugees, asylum seekers and those who have arrived through irregular means. For these activists, it is increasingly being directed at anyone in the UK who is non-white, indicating the disturbing radicalisation of a corner of the anti-migrant movement.


In order to insert itself into localised opposition to temporary accommodation plans, the far right has sought out opportunities for community engagement. This has been done with the aim of not only influencing local discourse but to conceal its true politics.

For example, Patriotic Alternative and its splinter groups – the Homeland Party and the National Support Detachment (NSD) – have focused on masquerading as members of the “local resistance” so as to blur the lines between their own activities and campaigns led by local residents. In doing so, this has enabled far right activists to portray themselves as “concerned citizens” or as “reflecting grassroots opinion”.

Ordinarily, this approach has tended to follow a similar set of tactics. These have included: disseminating leaflets, infiltrating local community Facebook groups, blending into residents meetings and protests, or establishing their own campaigns which are subsequently made to appear as local community run operations. Altogether, the objective has been, where possible, to dissolve into the background, to steer localised opposition movements in a predetermined direction and to shape the narrative. It has been important, however, for far-right activists to avoid being seen as involved. As such the far right has often
tried to limit its visibility, seeking to avoid those local movements themselves as being called “far right”.

In general, though, this strategy was far from effective. On the one hand, sporadic interactions at a local level did occasionally stir up hate and cause tensions within their target communities. However, on the other hand it was also not uncommon for local people to loudly object to what they perceived as far-right opportunism when it came to hijacking localised opposition groups.


One location in which this tactic was successful in 2023 was Llanelli. Back in 2022, elements of the UK far right were often seen in and around this market town in the south of Wales. The Britain First battle bus had been taken there for a campaign day, whilst the fascists in PA had held multiple leafleting sessions, each time claiming to have distributed hundreds of pieces of material.

However, in May 2023, the news that the Government planned to move asylum seekers into the nearby Stradey Park Hotel spread rapidly around the far right. Whilst local opposition mobilised, far-right activists from outside the area, including several from PA, inserted themselves into activities on the ground. Their involvement ensured that the tone of the campaign became increasingly extreme.

As part of the local opposition to the plans, activists blockaded the hotel’s sole entrance to restrict deliveries of goods and, eventually, people onto the site itself. For a period it was the go-to location, with activists dropping in and out to support and help.

One of the reasons for this tactical shift was that the “demo fever” that had gripped the movement wasn’t sustainable in the long run. A lack of success for the far right demonstrations likely also played a role. By the end of March, the lack of tangible success – i.e. the widespread failure to upend accommodation plans – meant that enthusiasm for the tactic had begun to seep away.

The first sign of the blockade appeared on 6 June, with local residents waking to find several large boulders arranged in front of the site entrance. This was done in such a way as to stop coaches from entering. Gleeful far-right activists shared a clip of the boulders that had originated with PA Wales activists Jeff Marsh. Across social media, Britain First, Tommy Robinson, PA and others all celebrated this escalation of the tactical battle against their enemy.

Whilst demonstrations continued to happen in Llanelli, even they began to take on a different, elongated form; multiple protests were organised outside the hotel entrance which took place between 11am and 4pm, with the good weather and energy keeping activists out longer. Following a march through the town in late June, and with no movement on the plans in sight, a last ditch legal challenge fell flat. For activists, this was the final straw. With seemingly all other options exhausted, an overnight blockade of the site came into being as demonstrators immediately set up outside the hotel entrance.

The subsequent announcement by the Home Office in October 2023 that the Stradey Park Hotel plans were being scrapped provided a shot in the arm to many far-right activists. Members of fascist group PA, and its splinter The Homeland Party, were jubilant. Calling the Llanelli protests and blockade “the Gold Standard of community politics in action”, activists highlighted how Llanelli ought to be viewed as a prototype for how local communities can be radicalised via outside involvement by the far right.

Despite the Welsh summer weather and the specific features of the Stradey Park Hotel site, activists protesting at RAF Scampton have attempted to replicate the Llanelli blockade at its main gate over the autumn and winter.

Former PA Yorkshire member and founder of the National Support Detachment (NSD), Alek Yerbury, was instrumental in organising the ongoing RAF Scampton protest camp; a blockade outside the main entrance to the historic Lincolnshire air base. The camp has been operational 24/7 since early autumn, with NSD’s “Officer Commanding”, Scott Pitts, also frequently staying at the camp several nights a week at the time of writing. Since its inception, the Scampton camp (along with the other, much smaller camps around the base) has existed as another “always on” protest, and has welcomed a smorgasbord of known far-right activists to attend for events, to show support and, for some, to stay over on site. This has included members of the EDL splinter group, the Yorkshire Patriots, the former leading UKIP figure Katie Fanning, and, more recently, long time anti-Muslim activist Anne Marie Waters.

Though the camp has been a focal point for activists, the demands of running the Scampton camp in terms of activist energy and general materials are significant. Together with the plain fact that the objective of the camp is destined for failure, these growing demands will most likely lead to the Scampton camp’s collapse early in 2024. Fundraisers and tacky lines of merchandise are producing dwindling levels of support. Meanwhile, the sub-zero winter temperatures have meant emergency generators, fuel and large quantities of firewood are needed to protect the health of activists, at a cost to the already insecure state of the camp’s finances. Despite these outlays, several key figures have had to leave the site due to illness. The camp has also been blighted by disagreements, arrests and accusations of drug and alcohol abuse on site, with Yerbury stating that he has been “absolutely disgusted by the sheer amount of whinging” from other activists.

Whilst the Llanelli blockade provided a boost to the far right, the likelihood of the Scampton camp being successful is now slim. Although West Lindsey District Council has voted unanimously to launch a fresh legal challenge against the use of the Scampton site, there is no sign that the plans are to be overturned. That being so, the most likely scenario is that the Scampton protest camp continues to act as a drain on energy and resources for the movement.


Anti-migrant activism was once again the focal point for the far right last year. The anger towards the Government’s perceived failures on cross-Channel migration, and for its temporary accommodation plans, drove the far right onto the streets and into communities with a worrying frequency.

Haemorrhaging support across the country, the Conservative Government weaponised anti-migrant hatred and xenophobia in 2023 in a desperate bid to claw back those deserting the party. As a result, anti-migrant politics has been towards the top of the Government’s messaging, with plans to “stop the boats” repeated constantly. This has emboldened the far right, which has often perceived itself as being responsible for shaping the narrative on immigration.

On a concrete level, however, the movement has achieved little. The protest surge in the spring generated a slight buzz around certain individuals in the movement, whilst the “migrant hunter” accommodation visits have generated views, clicks and revenue for those carrying them out. Though the Llanelli blockade was successful in forcing a reversal of the accommodation plans, comparable efforts at RAF Scampton are looking increasingly doomed. If and when the Scampton camp collapses, such has been the chaos surrounding it that it would be surprising if activists chose to replicate the tactic again in 2024.

What can be said for certain is that a 2024 election will bring with it an onslaught of anti-migrant rhetoric by the right-wing media and the Conservative Government, who will intensify culture wars for electoral gain. HOPE not hate’s 2023 Stoking the Flames report presented statistical analysis of how far-right, anti-migrant activity escalates alongside anti-migrant rhetoric in the political mainstream. As the election campaign ramps up, and the tone becomes more hostile, antifascists should expect the same from the far right.

Additionally, upcoming elections present an opportunity for far-right actors to move into political spaces. The Homeland Party’s recent success in registering as a political party may reinvigorate PA’s own quest for registered status, or to field candidates as independents. Party status affords fascist organisations a sheen of legitimacy, and enables these groups to take their extreme anti-migrant politics directly to voters. Whilst the chances of winning seats are very slim, these groups will aim to exploit the platform of electoral politics to their benefit.

Among the bigger name organisations such as UKIP and Britain First will also attempt to exploit anti- migrant sentiment in target areas. In Llanelli, for example, UKIP have selected the Voice of Wales activist Stan Robinson as their candidate, and Anne Marie Waters has used Scampton to launch a leadership bid. As always, far-right electoral movements will need to decide whether to focus on more winnable council seats in the local elections or immediately attempt the steep and expensive task of fighting for a seat in a General Election.

Finally, it is highly likely that the far right will continue targeting organisations that support people who are immigrants and asylum seekers, particularly as debates about Rwanda reach boiling point. Part of the Conservative Party’s anti-migrant culture war has been highlighting the role of so-called “activist lawyers”/“leftie lawyers” in stopping deportation flights to Rwanda. This has seeped into far-right discourse on the subject, with legal institutions often lambasted by activists on Telegram. One small anti- migrant organisation led an action last year to block the phone lines of an immigration law firm. As the far right scrabbles around for new tactics, migrant rights organisations and law firms will undoubtedly come under scrutiny in one form or another.



“State of HATE 2024: Pessimism, Decline, and the Rising Radical Right” is available now. This guide offers the most comprehensive and insightful analysis of far-right extremism in Britain today. Secure your free copy now.



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