Police van set on fire and projectiles thrown: fifteen people were arrested after a violent demonstration in front of a hotel housing asylum seekers near Liverpool, illustrating the tense climate which reigns in the United Kingdom on the question of the reception of migrants.
Several hundred people hostile to the reception of refugees had gathered Friday evening in front of the Suites Hotel in Knowsley (north-west of England), according to images of the rally.
For their part, associations for the defense of the rights of migrants had organized a counter-demonstration in support of the refugees accommodated in the hotel, requisitioned since January 2022 by the Ministry of the Interior to accommodate asylum seekers there.
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After an "
" mobilization, "
projectiles were thrown at police officers and one of our police vehicles was damaged
" by people "
who only wanted to cause violence and intimidation
," local police said in a statement.
Fifteen people, aged 13 to 54, were arrested, according to the police who reported one injured in their ranks.
Gatherings have been banned in the area for 48 hours.
Videos shared on social media show a burning police van and officers with riot shields.
I was scared
I was scared.
We came to the UK for safety
,” PA agency Ahmed, a 34-year-old asylum seeker staying at the hotel, told the agency.
People were crying
,” described another asylum seeker.
According to local Labor MP George Howarth, the protest was sparked by an "
alleged incident posted on social media
", which is being investigated by police.
He also brushed off claims that asylum seekers would be '
' in the hotel.
On Saturday, opposition MPs and refugee aid associations deplored the actions of "
Home Secretary Suella Braverman condemned late Saturday afternoon "
the appalling disorder in Knowsley last night
The alleged behavior of some asylum seekers is never an excuse for violence and intimidation
,” she wrote on Twitter.
In a statement sent to AFP, Clare Moseley, president of the Care4Calais migrant aid association, said that "
the rhetoric of hatred and division of our politicians is destroying our society and our British values
The Conservative government, which has made the fight against illegal immigration its priority for years, continues to toughen its rhetoric in the face of the influx of migrants.
Ms. Braverman had spoken in November of an “
”, causing an outcry in a country where the population remains mainly in favor of welcoming refugees, according to polls.
Division and Hate
For Enver Solomon, president of the Refugee Council, this policy
of “hostile environment, demonization of the men, women and children who come to our country to flee war and terror (...), the use of the word '' invasion'', create division and hatred
More than 45,000 people crossed the Channel in small makeshift boats in 2022 to seek asylum in the UK, a record.
The asylum system is unable to handle this influx, resulting in overcrowded reception centers and huge delays in processing claims.
As asylum seekers do not have the right to work, the government spends millions of pounds to house them, in particular by resorting massively to hotels.
Last month, around 100 associations wrote to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak demanding an independent investigation into the fate of 200 unaccompanied minor migrants who went missing after being housed in hotels.