People concerned about a Mansfield hotel being used to house asylum seekers must stay on the “right side of the line”, the town’s MP has said.
Around a dozen people gathered outside the Midland Hotel in the town on Saturday, February 4, to protest against its use as accommodation for migrants.
A video circulating on social media shows a group of people chanting “out, out, out” at a man inside the reception area, while one protester is heard saying: “There’s a foreigner in there with a mask on not even answering questions”.
One refugee support group condemned the demonstration, saying it raises concerns over “racism and scapegoating”.
The asylum seekers were first placed at the hotel in November by the Home Office and its contractor Serco amid a national backlog in asylum applications.
Councillor Ben Bradley (Con), Mansfield’s MP and leader of the county council, voiced concerns at the time, saying the hotel is “not the right place” for them.
Other hotels are being used for the same purpose nationwide, including one in Long Eaton.
Following Saturday’s protest, Mr Bradley said: “I’ve always felt we should be doing more to move migrants out of hotels.
“I warned Serco it was a bad idea for a variety of reasons and social unrest was one of them.
“I don’t think they should be there. The Government has made a commitment to moving them out of hotels and into more secure facilities. I want to see that happening quickly.
“In terms of the protest itself, I wasn’t aware of it until after it happened.
“Clearly nobody wants to see [migrants] being concerned about their safety, but I do understand the views of people concerned about this.”
When asked if there is an issue with the rhetoric being used around asylum seekers and whether they are not being treated as human beings, he added: “My sense is that people don’t blame individual migrants.
“They blame the Government for a situation that has been allowed to escalate.
“It’s something we’ve promised to tackle but that hasn’t happened.
“But no, that’s right, nobody wants to see individuals targeted in that way and people need to be clear about what’s acceptable.
“People do have the right to have their voices heard, but it has got to stay on the right side of the line.
“The solution to it is that the Government needs to tackle the overarching issue.”
The protest also led to concerns from a Mansfield-based refugee group which called for action to support the asylum seekers.
In a statement, the Mansfield Refugees Welcome Here Group said: “We are concerned about the rise of racism and scapegoating locally and nationally.
“We were dismayed to hear of the recent demonstration outside a local hotel designated as a temporary sanctuary for refugees.
“Refugees have no control over where they are put [and] have very little support apart from what refugee organisations can provide.
“We must say loudly and proudly no to racism and scapegoating – refugees welcome.”
Cllr David Hennigan (Ind), who represents Sutton Central and New Cross in Ashfield, has also voiced his objections about the protest.
He said: “It’s like the bad old days of Nick Griffin and Enoch Powell when whole communities lived in fear of racist attacks from the far-right.
“Community cohesion should be the cornerstone of communities and this irresponsible protest puts that at risk.”
Contractor Serco was approached for a response to the protest but said it does not comment on individual hotels being used to house asylum seekers.
Inspector Kylie Davies, of Nottinghamshire Police, the district commander for Mansfield, said: “Officers attended a protest at the Midland Hotel in Mansfield on Saturday morning. No threats to public safety were identified and no police action was required.
“We will continue to monitor the situation at this location and will investigate any offences reported to us. One complaint has been received from a member of the public and will be investigated in the usual way.”
The Midland Hotel has been approached for a comment.