The Home Office has recorded 70 racist incidents by far-right supporters against asylum seekers in barracks and hotel accommodation, according to a freedom of information response obtained by the Guardian.
However, campaigners supporting asylum seekers in such accommodation say the figure is a significant underestimation of the true picture.
The data, which covers 1 January 2020 until 13 July this year, involves incidents in the much-maligned Napier and Penally barracks – which have been under intense scrutiny by MPs after their untenable conditions were revealed, as well as a large-scale Covid outbreak in the former.
Penally barracks in Pembrokeshire, Wales, was closed in March – despite only being opened in September 2020 – along with Napier, in Folkestone, Kent. Hotels have been used throughout the period but their use for asylum seekers increased sharply after the start of the Covid pandemic in March 2020.
In Napier barracks, four incidents were recorded between September and December 2020 – with 12 occurring so far this year. This is despite the barracks being temporarily emptied in April after the coronavirus outbreak. There are now thought to be 176 asylum seekers living there.
Just one incident at Penally barracks was reported to the Home Office last year and none in 2021. However, witness statements from legal challenges by asylum seekers living there reveal a catalogue of disturbing episodes, including an attempt to ram a refugee with a car. Others include: stones and bottles being thrown, rape threats, attempts to start fights, fireworks shot through the gate, and eggings. According to witness statements, a farm shop in the area said some of the far-right supporters had asked to buy pigeon scarers to mimic the sound of gun fire and frighten the asylum seekers.