A Youtube video featuring a councillor claiming food is being diverted away from locals to feed asylum seekers housed at a hotel in Epping has been reported to the police.

In a video posted to Youtube, Epping Forest District (EFDC) councillor Julian Leppert and Eddy Butler, both of the far-right For Britain Movement party, claim food donated to charity 3Food4U is being ‘diverted’ to the Bell Hotel, Epping, where asylum seekers are housed.

The video has been reported to the police by EFDC councillors who have called for it to be removed from the site.

3Food4U uses the Loughton Club in Station Road as a hub for donations. Food, clothes and other essentials are then distributed at weekly Waltham Abbey Town Hall sessions to residents in need, without the requirement of assessments or referrals to receive aid.

In the video, which has been viewed almost 10,000 times, Cllr Leppert says food is being diverted 'away from locals' to people at the hotel who he claims have "traversed many many perfectly safe countries to exploit our benefits system.”

Mr Leppert and Mr Butler also make unsubstantiated claims about an increase in petty crimes in the area.

Charity director Pesh Kapasiawala has labelled the “inaccurate and false” claims as “fake news”.

“It is sad that such a well-supported and much needed community hub is being politicised above the wellbeing of the community”, he added.

The charity director has reported the video to Essex Police as a ‘hate crime’; the force has confirmed “enquiries are ongoing” into the matter.

Mr Kapasiawala said: “The statement by Cllr Leppert is completely inaccurate and false. The Loughton Club do act as a collection point to receive kind and generous public donations.

“None of the items donated to us including food goes to the Bell Hotel. We have been approached by individuals wanting to support the vulnerable people temporally living at the Bell Hotel and have asked people to speak to the hotel directly.”

Cllr Holly Whitbread, housing and community portfolio holder, said: “I was disgusted by the video, which I believe is deplorable. The video is factually incorrect and inflammatory.

“Despite accusations in the video there have been no spikes in local crime levels. As asylum seekers, they are not illegal immigrants and are deserving of our sympathy, not false accusations to raise tension with local people.”

In the video, Mr Butler and Mr Leppert incorrectly refer to the asylum seekers accommodated at the hotel as “illegal immigrants”.

An asylum seeker is someone seeking international protection from dangers in their home country, but whose claim for refugee status has not been determined legally.

Asylum seekers must apply for protection in the country of destination—meaning they must arrive at or cross a border in order to apply.

Deputy leader and planning portfolio holder, Cllr Nigel Bedford said: “I reported the video to the police as soon as I saw it, but I am sad to say there will be people who choose to believe it. However, I believe the vast majority of our residents are fair-minded and willing to look at the facts. You Tube has policies to prevent or take down such videos but they may only act when they receive complaints.

“If you agree, you can help by contacting You Tube and calling for the video to be taken down while the police carry out a proper investigation.”

The Home Office has confirmed the Bell Hotel in Epping is being used to house supported asylum seekers as part of contingency plans introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Individuals at the hotel are provided with three meals a day.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have a statutory duty to accommodate people who are seeking asylum in the UK who would otherwise be destitute, and in times of high demand, hotel accommodation can be used as contingency.

“Throughout this pandemic, we have worked to build capacity to ensure access to free and safe accommodation that enables public health guidance to be followed.”

Mr Leppert and The Bell Hotel have been contacted for comment.

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