Police arrest 15 after violence at asylum seeker hotel near Liverpool

Objects, including lit fireworks, were thrown at officers, and a police van was set alight in the disruption

Three people were arrested in the violence on Friday. PA
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Fifteen people were arrested after a protest outside a UK hotel housing asylum seekers descended into chaos.

Three people, including a police officer and two members of the public, suffered minor injuries in the disorder at the Suites Hotel, in Knowsley, near Liverpool, on Friday night.

Objects, including lit fireworks, were thrown at officers and a police van was destroyed after being set alight.

Merseyside Police said 13 men and two women between the ages of 13 and 54 were arrested on suspicion of violent disorder.

The force said people were "facilitating a peaceful protest and counter protest" outside the hotel when others, "who were not part of the original protest group, turned up, and it is clear that they were only interested in causing trouble".

Chief Constable Serena Kennedy said: "They turned up armed with hammers and fireworks to cause as much trouble as they could and their actions could have resulted in members of the public and police officers being seriously injured, or worse."

The hotel has been used to accommodate asylum seekers in Merseyside since January 2022.

Knowsley Council has said it received less than 48 hours’ notice from the Home Office last year of its intention to house asylum seekers at the hotel.

In a statement after the violence, the Knowsley Council said the Home Office gave less than 48 hours' notice of its intention to temporarily house asylum seekers at the hotel in January last year.

"More than a year later, this temporary arrangement between the hotel and the Home Office remains in place," the council said in a statement.

The local authority said it had expressed concern to the Home Office at the time that its "lack of engagement" meant the council could not inform its residents and put in place "any support needed".

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper called the behaviour of protesters "shameful and appalling".

"Thank you to Merseyside police for responding to the shameful violence and appalling behaviour in Knowsley this evening that put people at risk & for working to keep everyone safe," she wrote on Twitter.

Clare Moseley, founder of refugee charity Care4Calais, said she was among 100 to 120 people from pro-migrant groups who went to the scene in reaction to the protest to show support for the asylum seekers.

She said: "I'm trying to get in touch with some of the poor men in that hotel, I can only imagine how frightened they are.

"It was like a war zone."

Multiple asylum seeker advocacy groups accused protesters of being affiliated with the far right.

Refugee Action chief executive Tim Naor Hilton wrote on Twitter: "If you're part of a baying mob outside a hotel where refugees live then you're the far right...even if you don't like being called that."

Police continue a presence outside the Suites Hotel in Knowsley, Merseyside, the morning after a protest and counter-protest. Getty Images

Assistant Chief Constable Paul White said: "We will always respect the right to protest when these are peaceful, but the scenes tonight were completely unacceptable, putting those present, our officers and the wider community in danger.

"Thankfully we have not had any serious injuries reported up to this point, but for officers and police vehicles to be damaged in the course of their duty protecting the public is disgraceful.

"We have arrested some of those suspects and will continue without hesitation to review all and any evidence which comes in, through CCTV, images or other information you may have."

Last January, Knowsley Council said it had received no notification that the Suites Hotel was being considered as temporary accommodation for asylum seekers before the Home Office announced its official procurement.

A different council in Merseyside, St Helens, was "incorrectly notified" by the Government department, according to Knowsley.

When the correct authority was notified on January 13, Knowsley Council claimed that the Home Office was unable to confirm how many asylum seekers would be arriving or when.

At a meeting the following day, the local authority said it had asked for some time to be allowed for the local community to be informed but the Home Office could not agree to that request and told them on January 17 that asylum seekers would be arriving in two days' time.

It is understood that private company Serco was appointed by the Government to manage the Suites Hotel site and provide support to asylum seekers living there.

Knowsley Council said it was "not involved in that contract" and was not being paid to house asylum seekers, but nevertheless reiterated its "commitment" to supporting people fleeing "persecution and terror".

It added: "The council's role is to continue to work with partner agencies to ensure minimal disruption and impact on the local community while this site is being operated by the Home Office."

The government has been housing asylum seekers in Knowsley since 2016, the council said.

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.

Britain takes in fewer asylum-seekers than some of its European neighbours including France and Germany, but has seen a sharp increase in the number of people trying to reach the UK across the English Channel in dinghies and other small boats.

More than 45,000 people reached Britain by that route in 2022, and most applied for asylum.

The system for considering asylum applications has slowed to a crawl because of political turmoil and bureaucratic delays, leaving many migrants stuck in hotels or other temporary accommodation.

Updated: February 11, 2023, 4:23 PM
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