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PSNI investigating online posts about asylum seekers as hate crimes

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DUP councillor Marc Collins

DUP councillor Marc Collins

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Police are investigating online posts about asylum seekers staying at a hotel in Carrickfergus as potential hate crimes.

Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton issued a statement after receiving a number of complaints.

“The content of these posts is currently being investigated as potential hate crimes. It is important to remember that it is not illegal to seek asylum in the United Kingdom,” he said.

Earlier this week, the DUP councillor Marc Collins faced a backlash over a Facebook post in which he objected to the hotel being used for asylum seekers.

He had commented on Facebook that there was “plenty within our own communities who need help first and foremost”.

He denied any accusations of racism in advance but said the arrangements needed to be scrutinsed.

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It’s since been reported that online posts calling for a protest outside the hotel on Saturday have appeared , and that two of the residents have had to be moved over safety concerns.

In his statement, ACC Singleton made it clear that seeking asylum in the United Kingdom was not illegal, and that a rigorous process was used to determine refugee status.

“Refugee status is granted on the basis that they could not live safely in any part of their country for fear of prosecution on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or anything else that puts them at risk including their gender, gender identity or sexual orientation,” he said.

“As a police service we have a duty and are committed to protecting everyone but in particular vulnerable people.”

He said officers in Carrickfergus had been engaging with the men and women seeking asylum as well as stakeholders in Mid and East Antrim Council.

“Police will continue to engage with and provide reassurance to all parties and indeed the wider migrant community who we know are concerned by these events.”

Asylum and immigration solicitor Sinead Marmion from Phoenix Law represents one of the asylum seekers at the hotel.

She has now issued legal correspondence to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and the Home Office over concerns that information will be shared with councillors at a meeting on Monday.

“Any sharing of our client's info is a breach of privacy and discriminatory,” she said.


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