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“Migrant Hotels” – the far-right’s obsession with targeting the most vulnerable

“Migrant Hotels” – the far-right’s obsession with targeting the most vulnerable

Categories: Latest News

Friday September 18 2020

Britain First, whilst seemingly having disappeared into obscurity over the last years, have once again garnered infamy in mainstream media by “invading” hotels, castigating the defenceless and vulnerable, and manipulating facts. Tactics which helped them cultivate a network of far-right agitators previously, are once again being employed in the hopes of fostering further prejudice and support for their faltering far-right agenda. Though the far-right tactics being employed remain static, counter-approaches need to be far more dynamic and holistic than previous attempts.

Britain First recently released a number of videos claiming to “expose” what the far-right has coined as “migrant hotels”. However, beneath the sensationalist rhetoric, the issue remains the same – far-right groups utilising manipulated facts to fit a preconceived prejudicial agenda. Over recent weeks, Britain First members have published a number of videos recording themselves trespassing on private property, and intimidating individuals, with the aim of “exposing” “migrant hotels”.

The group alleged that the Home Office is spending large amounts of money to house refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants more generally in lavish hotels. The only problem is that such cases are minute exceptions in the way asylum seekers are accommodated in the UK. Indeed, the Home Office responded to the controversy and stated that the hotels are a “temporary accommodation” implemented “because of the coronavirus pandemic”. It was also clarified that this rule was for a “proportion” of individuals that could not be accommodated in existing facilities. Furthermore, similar approaches were being undertaken to house rough sleepers by local councils – this remains unmentioned by Britain First’s propaganda. What is also missing is the ample evidence of asylum seekers being forced to stay in accommodation not fit for human use. Indeed, in August, seven Glasgow MPs demanded an independent inquiry into housing conditions faced by refugees and asylum seekers in Glasgow. The action came after it was reported that many asylum seekers in Glasgow were being given food not fit for human consumption, and have been threatened with “deportation” and “detention” if they attempted to complain. Some are survivors of war, human trafficking, and state persecution; yet the far-right are utilising an assortment of bias information to portray them as threats and economic opportunists. As such, whilst the far-right attempt to portray asylum seekers as “freeloaders” they remain one of the most vulnerable groups in society.

Britain First’s obsession with “migrants” is, however, just one of a variety of topics they choose to selectively engage whilst propagating their prejudicial views. On their Telegram channel, various major socio-political news items are discussed through the lens of a biased framing to reinforce hatred against minority communities. Examples include discussing Black Lives Matter (BLM) but concentrating only on episodes of violence by BLM supporters, at times intertwined with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. One video published on their channel to their 21,2000 followers argued that BLM was “founded by Soros”. In far-right circles, George Soros, a Jewish billionaire investor and philanthropist, is often subject to anti-Semitic framings and portrayed to be secretly controlling the world.

The discourse on their social media channels represents a complex compilation of prejudices, ranging from ethno-nationalist discourse to anti-communist to anti-religious rhetoric (including Islamophobia but also clear anti-Semitism), in order to preserve White racial and cultural supremacy in the West. Therefore, whilst grassroots far-right groups often focus on Muslims or migrant communities, their inherent rationale inevitably compels them to target all groups that differ from their narrow definition of acceptable.

Their success over recent years is primarily down to a combination of echo-chamber logic and promoting the rejection of mainstream voices. Echo-chamber logic is the idea of being surrounded by like-minded information that reinforces your point of view, similar to joining a Telegram channel that supports your views and only posts information that supports that view. However, by itself, the phenomenon is not enough for someone to become blind to their prejudice. The other side of the coin is the group’s rejection of mainstream voice and considering all information that undermines their point of view as being corrupt. Britain First propagates the idea that “all journalists, editors and presenters are left-wing and hold the same anti-British political beliefs”, adding that “what you see on TV, hear on the radio or reading a newspaper, is not ‘news’”.

The two phenomena act symbiotically to first detach people from mainstream discourse and then feed them a constant diet of biased information. To counter such a strategy must, therefore, be holistic – simply attempting to silence far-right groups has proven to be insufficient. To undo the damage requires a combination of removing such hate from online platforms, and countering the misinformation with accurate reporting of minority communities.

MEND, therefore, calls upon the Government to:

  • Commit to the commencement of the second part of the Leveson Inquiry, including an investigation into the prevalence of Islamophobia within the media;
  • Implement primary legislation to deal with social media offences and hate speech online and commit to working with social media companies to protect free speech while developing an efficient strategy to tackle hate speech online in consultation with Muslim grassroots organisations;
  • Commit to supporting academic freedoms and initiatives to decolonise education, whilst giving greater emphasis within the national curriculum to shared histories and the contributions of minority communities in building our society.
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