Far-right accused of 'exploiting fears' over asylum seeker hotel plans

Up to 174 people will be placed at the Muthu Glasgow River Hotel as part of a settlement programme managed by the Mears Group on behalf of the Home Office.

Far-right accused of ‘exploiting fears’ over asylum seeker hotel plans in Renfrewshire STV News

Far-right groups have been accused of “exploiting the fears” of community members over the housing of asylum seekers in an Erskine hotel.

Up to 174 people will be placed at the Muthu Glasgow River Hotel as part of a settlement programme managed by the Mears Group on behalf of the Home Office.

Counter-demonstrations have been organised in response to Patriotic Alternative, which has protested at the site each Sunday for three weeks.

The group has been accused of latching on to the “genuine anxieties” of members of the public, who have expressed concerns about the potential impact on stretched services and a lack of consultation over the proposals.

An update on the hotel – which was initially to be used for single men – was provided at Wednesday’s leadership board, where it was confirmed it will now host a mixed population of families, couples and single people.

It was also explained the pace of the phased occupancy will be slowed in a bid to manage demands on services and support community engagement.

Elected members welcomed the revised approach, but condemned the “disgraceful” narrative which has blighted the hotel in recent weeks.

SNP councillor Jim Paterson said: “Refugees are welcome in Renfrewshire.

“The only thing that isn’t welcome are fascist right-wing groups that try to hi-jack the genuine anxieties of communities and exploit their fears, which is just reprehensible.

“I hope we see less of that going forward and that these fascists return to where they came from and spread their bile and misinformation elsewhere.”

Councillor Iain McMillan, leader of the Labour group, described the atmosphere at the first protest as “quite nasty”.

He added: “I didn’t like it and I started to question why I actually went along. I just didn’t like it at all.

“But I think we had to put a message out there that refugees are welcome here in Renfrewshire and I think we succeeded in that.

“I was really pleased to hear that there’s a slight change in terms of it all being single males – there’s going to be families moving in there.

“I think that will certainly allay some of the fears, although many of those fears were indeed misplaced.

“But people have fears, they are real fears to them.”

SNP councillor Michelle Campbell, who represents Erskine, was visibly emotional as she spoke about the subject in the chambers.

She said: “It is absolutely disgraceful that any person has to flee any level of violence to the point where there life is put at risk, they come here and then they’re faced with that volatility.

“Imagine you went home today and you had those people standing outside your door.

“That is an absolute disgrace.”

SNP council leader Iain Nicolson confirmed charities are working with the hotel residents to support their needs.

He said: “I think overall the council should be proud of its record in maintaining humanitarianism here and not be buffeted and pushed in certain directions by loud voices with megaphones.

“In particular with Erskine, councillor Campbell and myself were asked if we wanted to speak at a counter protest and we said no because really two lots of megaphones shouting at each other is not a good thing on the doorstep where people are going to live.

“We’ve all been highly engaged with it and we’re appreciating the fact that some of the key questions being asked by the community have been getting answered by the Home Office, albeit a bit slowly, but I think we’ll get there with it.”

When contacted, the Home Office said it does not comment on circumstances at individual hotels.

Mears Group has been contacted for comment.

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