Nearly 200 charities on 14 February urged the UK’s political leaders to “take a clear stand” against attacks on asylum seekers. It came days after an anti-immigrant protest descended into violent disorder. The open letter was co-ordinated by coalition campaign Together With Refugees and signed by 180 charities. It condemned the “horrifying” scenes on 10 February outside the Suites Hotel in Knowsley, near Liverpool.
The open letter described the events outside Suites Hotel as “horrifying”, and went on to say:
With the high risk of more premeditated extremist attacks around the country, leaders of all parties must now take a clear stand and condemn any further violence against those who come here to find safety.
The letter also urged political leaders to “set out the action they will take to prevent” further attacks.
Violence and division do not represent us.
Today 180+ orgs stand united in defence of Britain as as a place of safety for all. It's time for our politicians to defend our values, too. #TogetherWithRefugees
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
Read the full letter & list of signatories:https://t.co/GFynWYEYP2
— Together With Refugees 🧡 (@RefugeeTogether) February 14, 2023
Rhetoric against asylum seekers comes from the top
People have criticised home secretary Suella Braverman for her inflammatory rhetoric over immigration and asylum seekers. In particular, many have criticised her description of the growing number of refugees crossing the Channel. Opponents accuse her of demonising asylum seekers and fuelling hostility towards people seeking sanctuary.
A Home Office spokesperson noted that Braverman had condemned the “appalling scenes outside the hotel and violence toward police officers” seen outside Suites Hotel.
However, Braverman’s actual response to the riots in Knowsley wasn’t such a ‘clear stand’ against what happened. After highlighting a tweet by the home secretary in which she said that the “alleged behaviour of some asylum seekers is never an excuse for violence“, the Canary‘s Steve Topple wrote:
There are no grounds for Braverman’s claim about refugees’ “behaviour” in Knowsley – except right-wing lies on social media.
Braverman essentially covered for the far-right by victim-blaming refugees
Many others made similar points, too
This is what you said in Parliament.
Disingenuous to now "condemn" people who heard you and decided to deal with this "invasion".
You called the people in these hotels invaders and criminals. Now you're blaming the British public for not wanting them in their community? pic.twitter.com/ZpT3abA6PZ
— Shoaib M Khan (@ShoaibMKhan) February 11, 2023
“Alleged behaviour” – you’re a disgrace. Last week I met a man who was tortured for years & came here for safety. I met women who were repeatedly raped & came here for safety. Rather than demonising them to distract from your Govt failings, do your job and help them.
— Kate Nicholl (@KateNicholl) February 12, 2023
— Daniel York Loh 😷 (@DanielYorkLoh) February 13, 2023
As the Canary noted, the police and BBC News also repeated similar rhetoric in their response to the riot.
No safe haven
Clashes broke out in Knowsley when racist troublemakers disrupted a pro-refugee gathering outside the Suites Hotel on 10 February. The building was housing asylum seekers. The far-right group Patriotic Alternative had protested outside the hotel earlier in February, but it denied organising the latest rally.
The open letter called attention to failures of the Home Office and the UK’s asylum system, which have served to place asylum seekers at greater risk. It said the lives of asylum seekers:
are in limbo as they wait, sometimes for years, for a decision on their asylum claim. And it is clear that these massive delays are directly leading to the use of hotels for people seeking asylum – a completely inappropriate form of accommodation and a glaring confirmation that the system is broken.
Featured image via Together With Refugees/YouTube
Additional reporting by Agence France-PresseSupport us and go ad-free
We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support
The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.
The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.
So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.