LONDON: Thousands of Afghans housed temporarily in British hotels have faced increasing harassment by far-right groups, according to organizations monitoring the activities of extremists.
Campaigners said the groups are drawing on Islamophobic narratives to whip up hate against the refugees.
Britain First is one of the most notorious and prominent groups involved in the campaign, and according to its own website, it has made more than a dozen unsolicited visits to hotels housing refugees across England in recent weeks.
Right-wing extremism monitor Hope Not Hate said the resettlement schemesfor Afghans have become a focal point for many far-right groups.
It said the arrival of the refugees has led to the far right “reviving, and refining, similar attacks used during the Syria crisis.”
The far right, it added, is using ideas rooted in Islamophobia such as the “Muslim takeover of Europe,” or framing refugees as potential terrorists or sex offenders, to incite hatred against them.
In the videos, far-right activists are seen filming themselves showing up at hotels and trying to find and film refugees, who they incorrectly describe as illegal immigrants.
They usually say they are filming for social media instead of identifying their organization, and are often escorted from the premises by staff.
Banned from traditional social media, some of Britain First’s videos on Telegram of the hotel harassment have accrued views of up to 40,000.
Many of the Afghans who have been evacuated to the UK were taken out of their country because they worked closely with British forces during the two-decade war. Around 8,500 people were evacuated from Afghanistan to Britain in total.
Far-right groups cite the alleged financial burden on the British taxpayer of resettling Afghans, and claim that they will also hurt British wallets because of the increased unemployment costs of new migration.
They have also made baseless accusations in the past that male refugees were harassing local schoolgirls — a claim discredited by police.
One group, Patriotic Alternative — a white nationalist political group — is promoting a “write to your MP” action to its followers to protest the resettlement of Afghans in Britain. They have also unfurled banners with the words “we will not be replaced” to protest the resettlement of Afghans in Britain, including one in Home Secretary Priti Patel’s constituency.
A spokesperson for Hope Not Hate told The Guardian: “It’s grimly predictable to see the far-right harassing Afghan refugees where they are living. Immigration has long been a focus of the far-right, but they have capitalized on the Afghan resettlement scheme to bring together Islamophobic tropes with anti-migrant hate.
“They are using Islamophobic narratives of a ‘Muslim takeover of Europe,’ framing refugees as potential terrorists or sexual predators, and underpinning these with a rejection of the political system to offer a hateful alternative.”