Far right activist posed as Home Office inspector to target Scots asylum hotel 7

Far right activist posed as Home Office inspector to target Scots asylum hotel

Content warning: violent language, antisemitism

A far right activist posed as a Home Office inspector to get information about a Dumfries hotel housing Ukrainian refugees, which led to the targeting of guests and staff, and alleged plots to turn off the building’s power and water.

Internal Scottish Government emails, which The Ferret obtained via freedom of information law, show how officials sought to protect the Dumfries Station Hotel’s staff and residents after the building was targeted by people it labelled as “far right”.

The Ferret also gained access to a group on the Telegram messaging app called “Scots against migrant hotels”, which includes current and former members of far right groups. Some in the chat group shared Nazi, racist and antisemitic material, told others not to fear jail time, and called for one hotel employee to be assaulted.

The Ferret’s investigation comes weeks after an Irish hotel set to become asylum housing was burned down in a suspected arson attack, which followed far right riots in Dublin.

A local MSP branded the targeting of the Dumfries hotel “a shocking incident which shows the extent to which these extremists will go to spread their hate”. Such activity is “on the rise”, according to Hope Not Hate, which researches extremism.

The Scottish Government stressed that “strict safeguarding measures” were in place to protect all displaced people, while the UK Government’s Home Office department, which deals with asylum, said “additional safety measures” at hotels are installed, “if required”.

Police Scotland said it had issued safety and security advice and was investigating “a potential hate crime” in regards to the targeting of the Dumfries hotel. It urged anyone with information to call 101.

Last year, we revealed that former members of the far right Scottish Nationalist Society and a white supremacist later jailed for five years for racist offences, including a “call to arms against black and Jewish people” were part of a demonstration outside a Renfrewshire asylum hotel.

Alleged plots to target hotel

On 25 September, officials warned of a video posted on social media showing a man calling the reception of the Station Hotel in Dumfries, to which the UK Government issued a contract to house Ukrainian asylum seekers.

After the receptionist was not forthcoming with information, the man claimed to be a Home Office inspector, and successfully sought information about the number of people being accommodated, their meals, and access to leisure facilities.

The Scottish Government was concerned after some commenters falsely claimed the hotel was “full of illegal immigrants” while others targeted the receptionist by name. The video “could incite local unrest if not challenged/neutralised quickly”, said one official.

It emerged that activists had created a list of other asylum hotels. Hotel managers needed to be alerted to “be on guard” as “a matter of urgency” in order to protect staff and guests, the official stressed.

One of the comments linked to a Telegram group featuring “much more serious comments”. Some allegedly plotted to identify staff and guests, gain entry to the hotel by “posing as workmen”, set off fire alarms, and tamper with water and electricity supplies.

But these calls were “tame in comparison to some suggestions”, warned one official. Police were said to be preparing to increase patrols, and to raise the issue nationally.

The video was reportedly removed and reposted more than 10 times, and the hotel “received a large number of abusive calls” and had to close its phone line. Rumours of “a conspiracy” to “hide other asylum seekers in with the Ukrainian cohort” also emerged.

Residents were given a precautionary “briefing on hate crime and how to report it in Scotland”.

Neo-Nazi chat group

In October, The Ferret gained access to a Telegram group called “Scots against migrant hotels” which features Nazi and racist material and includes current or former members of far right groups.

It was created by a man with the username Baldy 131, who can be seen wearing clothes with far right logos, one of which he said he bought from a neo Nazi website which also sells knives.

The man shared videos of himself calling various hotels in Scotland under the pretence of booking a room, including a different Dumfries asylum hotel.

However, he did not impersonate a Home Office inspector in any of the posted clips and has a different accent than the man in the video referred to by the Scottish Government. The man also shared a list of Scottish hotels he believed were used to house asylum seekers. “…the plan is put pressure on these hotels, but that’s just the start”,” he told users.

He claimed someone at an East Kilbride hotel had “admitted it’s under government contract” and had “a good friend” who would gain intel from another hotel. The man encouraged others to “contact these hotels and record what you can”. ‘Baldy 131’ did not respond to a request to comment.

Another group member, Sepp HD, who claimed to live in Turriff, Aberdeenshire, described himself as a “national socialist” – or Nazi. In his profile, he included images of Nazi officers, a quote from Adolf Hitler, and the logo of the far right Highland Division.

The safety of the people in hotels must be ensured, and the best way to do this would be for the government to prioritise community-based housing and take seriously the threat that the far right poses.

HOPE Not Hate

The Ferret previously revealed how one man posed with his vast weapons collection before joining Patriotic Alternative Scotland, another far right organisation, before defecting to Highland Division.

A clip was shared in the group in which a man – apparently the same person who impersonated the Home Office inspector – phones a Paisley hotel five times to ask about the asylum seekers being housed there, despite frustrated pleas for him to stop from staff.

Sepp HD, referring to the phone call, said: “…we should all go down there let them know who’s really in control”. If the man who answered the call was the hotel owner, “he should get a pummelling”, they added. Sepp encouraged others in the group not to fear arrest or jail time: “…if there’s enough of us they can’t jail us all,” they said. “It’s ACTION WE NEED”.

Sepp and other users made racial slurs about the perceived ethnicities of asylum seekers, prime minister Rishi Sunak, and first minister Humza Yousaf, who one user said should be “hung on a rope” or receive a “bullet”. Another user, “WhitestScotAlive” included an image of a wristwatch featuring the Nazi swastika over the background of a saltire, and referenced a “gas the Jews with us” song.

The chat group also included Chris Mitchell, a far right podcaster who was Patriotic Alternative’s east of England regional organiser before he reportedly left the organisation. Mitchell has featured on his show a member of Highland Division and Alek Yerbury – another PA defector – who united to hold a rally in Elgin in June 2023.

Mitchell has deleted the account used in the chat group and could not be reached.

Far right activist posed as Home Office inspector to target Scots asylum hotel 8
One of the images shared in the Telegram group features a wristwatch with the Nazi swastika over the background of a saltire.

Hotel targeted by ‘far right extremists’

South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth branded the targeting of the hotel “a shocking incident which shows the extent to which these extremists will go to spread their hate”.

“The community in Dumfries have worked hard to support displaced people, to treat everyone the way we would like to be treated,” he said. “Clearly, these right wing groups don’t want that to happen and are determined to create fake news, by blowing the issue totally out of proportion to generate a baseless backlash.”

Smyth added: “The only people who aren’t welcome in our community are those far right extremists who want to cause trouble… I would urge local people to see right through any scare stories and if they witness any incidents, report them straight away to the police.”

A spokesperson for HOPE not hate, which monitors extremist groups, claimed far right anti-asylum seeker activity was “on the rise”. “This plays out in people harassing staff and residents at hotels housing asylum seekers and migrants, filming it, and then posting the footage online to share around far right and anti-migrant networks,” they said.

“The safety of the people in hotels must be ensured, and the best way to do this would be for the government to prioritise community-based housing and take seriously the threat that the far right poses.”

The only people who aren’t welcome in our community are those far right extremists who want to cause trouble.

Colin Smyth, Labour MSP for South Scotland

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We take this issue very seriously. Strict safeguarding measures are in place to protect all displaced people from unacceptable behaviour. Providing support and sanctuary for people fleeing war continues to be a priority for the Scottish Government, as people in Scotland rightly expect.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “All incidents at asylum accommodation sites are reported by providers to the Home Office immediately. We then work with the provider to put in additional safety measures if required, and engage with local police to ensure safety of residents.

“We continue to work across government and with local authorities to identify a range of accommodation options and remain committed to engaging with local authorities and key stakeholders as part of this process.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We are carrying out enquiries into a potential hate crime. We have provided appropriate safety and security advice to relevant hotels. Anyone who knows who is responsible should contact Police Scotland on 101.”

The Station Hotel did not respond to a request to comment.

Header image credit: Google

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