A refugee charity has warned an MP’s remark that he “doesn’t care what the far-right are doing” when discussing their confrontation of asylum seekers risks him “being seen to endorse unlawful, threatening and intimidatory behaviour”.
Tory MP for Gravesham Adam Holloway made the comment on BBC Newsnight during its report about far-right activists confronting asylum seekers in hotels, as authorities try to tackle small boat arrivals on the Channel.
Video footage broadcast on the programme shows activists knocking on doors in a hotel corridor, asking one person in a room which country they come from, and another if they are staying there for free.
Newsnight reports that hotels housing asylum seekers are being shared on social media, along with calls for a boycott of the companies and anti-Muslim conspiracies.
The Home Office has condemned abuse aimed at asylum seekers as unacceptable, the programme adds.
Holloway said he was more interested in making it “very difficult” for people who arrive “illegally” in the UK to claim asylum, or else the far-right’s response “will go on and on”.
But in statements to Yahoo News UK, the anti-racism charity Hope Not Hate and Maurice Wren, chief executive of the Refugee Council, have criticised his reaction.
In an interview on Newsnight, Holloway said: “I don’t care what the far-right are doing. That’s for them.
“And if they want to wander into hotels and intimidate young illegal immigrants, asylum seekers, then that just tells you about them.
“What I’m more interested in is until we can change the rules so that it’s very difficult for you to claim asylum if you come in illegally in this way then sadly this will go on and on and also, frankly, we’ll have more drownings like that poor boy the other day.”
Maurice Wren, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “In his apparent reluctance to speak out against the thuggery of the far-right fringe, this MP runs the risk of being seen to endorse unlawful, threatening and intimidatory behaviour.
“Each time an MP repeats the myth that it is illegal to enter a country irregularly for the purpose of seeking protection from persecution and harm, they stoke anti-migrant sentiment that can have real consequences for people who have sought safety here.”
Wren added that the “only way” to reduce the amount of people risking their lives for refugee protection is to work with European countries to set up safe and regular routes, as well as expanding the “highly successful” refugee resettlement programme and changing family reunion rules.
A spokesperson for Hope Not Hate said: “It is worryingly complacent for a Member of Parliament to say that they weren’t interested in the far-right trespassing into hotels and seeking out migrants to harass and intimidate.”
They added: “The government has a duty to protect people from the far right before there is a serious incident. Irrespective of their views on the migration issue, all responsible politicians should be clear in their condemnation of the far-right’s actions.”
At least 168 people crossed on 12 small boats on 14 September.
Analysis by the PA Media news agency shows more than 5,000 have made the journey to the UK by small boats in 2020.