Where the demonising and scapegoating of asylum seekers ends up: Care4Calais’s account of a terrifying night in Knowsley

from Twitter

With thanks to Care4Calais for their kind permission to reproduce this account. It is impossible to imagine how terrifying this must have been for them and for the unfortunate people who had been put in that hotel. This government, forever looking for others on whom to pile the blame for the effects of their policies, have been assiduous in fanning the flames of hatred and resentment against people fleeing war, torture, prejudice and the effects of climate emergency. To quote UNHCR:

“There is no such thing as a bogus asylum-seeker or an illegal asylum-seeker. As an asylum-seeker, a person has entered into a legal process of refugee status determination. Everybody has a right to seek asylum in another country. People who don’t qualify for protection as refugees will not receive refugee status and may be deported, but just because someone doesn’t receive refugee status doesn’t mean they are a bogus asylum-seeker. 

Let us remember that a bogus asylum-seeker is not equivalent to a criminal; and that an unsuccessful asylum application is not equivalent to a bogus one – Kofi Annan

What benefits do asylum-seekers receive in the UK?

The majority of asylum-seekers do not have the right to work in the United Kingdom and so must rely on state support.

Housing is provided, but asylum-seekers cannot choose where it is, and it is often ‘hard to let’ properties which Council tenants do not want to live in.

Cash support is available, and is currently set at £40.85 per person, per week, which makes it £5.84 a day for food, sanitation and clothing.”

(Source: Home Office)

Far right riots at Liverpool hotel 11.02.23

Far right riots at Liverpool hotel

“As I write this, I am trapped in a hotel car park in my home city of Liverpool, surrounded by a violent mob of far-right thugs.

Tonight that mob came to this hotel, the Suites in Knowsley, which is currently being used to house refugees who are victims of torture and war, to protest at the presence of refugees in the city. They say they did this to defend the British way of life; in fact they set fire to a police van, attacked the police and then tried to attack our peaceful counter-protest. Attacking those who uphold the country’s laws seems a funny way to defend said country. With friends like these, the British way of life might ask itself who needs enemies.

The night began with so much hope. About 150 counter protestors had arrived and were sharing friendship and a spirit of solidarity with the refugees housed in the hotel. Many [of these refugees] were new arrivals, and must have felt scared, so to be able to reassure them was good. But as the Far Right arrived, it seemed huge numbers had been shipped in from out of town. Initial reports suggest there were as many as 400.

There was a large squad of police, but with sheer weight of numbers and conspicuously good organisation, the mob broke through police lines and reached a van. They attacked and ransacked the van, and one thug clambered onto its roof before the mob set it on fire.

At this point extra police officers in riot gear arrived, and we became deeply concerned for our own safety and that of the refugees. It seemed all hell was breaking loose: shouting, fireworks being thrown, more fires lit, police vans with flashing lights arriving and then what seemed like the burning van exploding. As the mob advanced on the hotel, we were surrounded on three sides, and it became evident the police may not have enough resources to protect us from attack; we desperately barricaded the gates with any debris we could find, and hoped the police would be able to make a way out for us. Roads around the hotel have been closed. We are still here as I write.

The Labour MP for Knowsley, Sir George Howarth, had issued a statement shared by the local party in which he urged people not to take the law into their own hands.

He added, “the misinformation about refugees being feather-bedded is untrue and intended to paint a picture that does not at all represent the facts.

“The people of Knowsley are not bigots and are welcoming to people escaping from some of the most dangerous places in the world in search of a place of safety.

“Those demonstrating against refugees at this protest tonight do not represent this community. We are not like that and overwhelmingly behave with sympathy and kindness to others regardless of where they come from’.”

We can only hope people listen.

I am deeply shocked and shaken at what I have witnessed in Liverpool tonight. I have sympathy with anyone in our country who is concerned for our services or their own future, but terrorising victims of war and torture is unforgivable. The burning police van and broken police cordons are a sure sign that our politicians’ rhetoric of hate and division is now destroying our society and our British values. Looking at those demonstrators, I don’t believe they really care about our country; I think they’re full of hate, and looking for somewhere to direct it.

And like all bullies, they pick on the most vulnerable. That’s why my greatest concern is whether the police can keep the people in this hotel safe both tonight and in the future.

With thanks to Care4Calais for their kind permission to reproduce this account.