Asylum seekers at a hotel in Epping are once again being targeted by far-right groups.

Patriotic Alternative, a far-right party founded in 2019, have been posting leaflets through letterboxes across the town and held a ‘banner protest’ outside the hotel on Sunday, February 21.

Asylum seekers at the Bell Hotel in Epping High Road were previously targeted last year by district councillor Julian Leppert for the For Britain Movement – another far-right party operating in the area.

Patriotic Alternative is run by Mark Collett, former chairman of the Young BNP, who was kicked out of the party after appearing in the 2002 Channel 4 documentary ‘Young, Nazi and Proud’ where, unaware he was being recorded, he declared his admiration for Adolf Hitler and said that he considered AIDS a ‘friendly disease because blacks, drug users and gays have it’.

In a video posted by Patriotic Alternative to Twitter, an unidentified voice says: “What you are looking at now is the Bell Hotel in Epping. They are housing hundreds of migrants who have come to this country illegally…. Our Conservative government is actively aiding and abetting the invasion of Britain.”

The video quotes a 2016 article from Professor David Coleman of the University of Oxford who claimed ‘white Britons could be in the minority by the 2060s’.

Patriotic Alternative use the claim to evoke the great replacement theory which claims that white people are becoming a minority across the West – an anxiety which has reoccurred throughout history, and most notoriously formed the basis of Enoch Powell’s infamous 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.

Last year US-based PHD researcher Annie Kelly, appearing in a Metro article, defined the great replacement as the ‘reimagination of peaceful movements of people, something which has happened for the entire course of human history, as an existential threat’.

The Home Office has housed asylum seekers – legally distinct from migrants – for almost a year at the 79-room Bell Hotel as part of contingency plans introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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. It is not illegal to seek asylum, because seeking asylum is a legal process.

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

Cllr Holly Whitbread condemned the latest attack on asylum seekers at the hotel.

“There is no place for extremism in our tolerant and democratic community”, she said. “The vast majority of people who live in Epping disagree with the views expressed in this video.”

In July of last year, asylum seekers at the hotel were targeted by district councillor Julian Leppert and For Britain Movement ‘party-fixer’ Eddy Butler.

The pair ran an aggressive social media campaign falsely claiming the arrival of the asylum seekers had seen petty crime rise in the area – debunked by Essex Police – and that food from a local charity was being diverted to the hotel, a claim the charity categorically denied.

A council committee found Cllr Leppert had breached the code of conduct and he was served a formal censure and made to attend equality and diversity training.

In response to rising far-right activity in the district, an Epping Forest Stand Up To Racism group has formed – becoming the 53rd branch of the organisation across the country.

“Their campaign is built on a bed of lies which are designed to build division, resentment and hate", a spokesperson for the group said. "We all know where that ultimately leads - our grandparents fought against it.

“Epping Forest Stand Up To Racism has recently formed to challenge the lies from For Britain, Patriotic Alternative and other far-right groups, and to help show that there’s no place them in Epping Forest.

“We stand in solidarity with the people at the Bell Hotel who deserve better than to be used as pawns in the far-right’s games and the subject of their lies.”

When contacted, Patriotic Alternative confirmed a team of local activists had held a banner protest outside the Best Western owned Bell Hotel in Epping.

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