Truth behind hotel petition claims

The Britannia Hotel where asylum seekers are staying
The Britannia Hotel where asylum seekers are staying

IT is an issue that has clearly divided opinion in the Standish community.

Talk of crime waves, schoolgirls being filmed and elderly residents too frightened to walk their dogs because of the asylum-seekers being housed in the Britannia Hotel is widespread.

Someone must have been on my Facebook page. I didn’t know anything about it until it was posted last week

Gary Farrimond on a Facebook post under his name

Hundreds of residents have supported a petition calling for the arrangement to end; but others believe the asylum-seekers have every right to be there, have done no harm and that the campaign to get rid of them is based on ignorance and racial stereotypes.

And for all the allegations that the strangers have brought trouble, police analysis of crime figures shows no local increase in offences and, indeed, they have no record of specific incidents highlighted by those opposing the presence of the refugees.

Indeed officers say that if people do have concerns they should be coming to the police with them.

Wigan’s MP Lisa Nandy in her column for the Wigan Observer today says that she is very concerned that the Far Right is exploiting the situation but has also voiced concerns about the appropriateness of the Britannia as a place to accommodate asylum-seekers. She is working tirelessly to get answers from the Home office and Serco about the situation, but is being frustrated by their lack of answers.

And there is also the debate about whether those seeking refuge are fleeing persecution, war and torture or are economic migrants who just want a more prosperous life on these shores.

The Observer understands that some of the residents who have been asked to sign the petition have been told of at least two stories in particular which we have found out to be untrue.

One resident was told that the headteacher of Standish High School had been forced to call the police because some of the asylum-seekers had been filming pupils at the school.

But headteacher Andrew Pollard said: “There was an allegation that some children had seen people taking pictures at the school.

“My understanding is that when this was investigated further by the police I don’t think that turned out to be the case.

“It was a family who were looking over to see how British schools work. We have been doing a lot of stranger danger with the children recently so I think they got a little panicked.

“I think the situation has been over-exaggerated. If there was any suggestion that people were filming or taking pictures of the pupils I would take action but there is no evidence of that.”

The resident was also told that a group of three asylum-seekers had tried to break into Standish Methodist Church on Wednesday last week. He was told that two of them were caught and traced back to the hotel.

Again, the Observer contacted the church who said there had not been an attempted break-in but the fast food store next door had been broken into. The Observer has been unable to verify this.

Ian Adamczyk who founded the page told the Observer: “It is not a case of putting any argument forward when I am on the street asking someone to sign. I don’t try and convince them to sign.

“A lot of people are talking about this in the village and things get overheard but of course I have a duty to make sure the things I am telling people are true.

“It is hard to find out anything though, I have asked the authorities for information and I get no response.”

Attention has also been drawn to an allegation that Gary Farrimond, who was involved in the campaign, had posted on Facebook a picture of a burning building along with the caption “The Britannia Hotel with all the monkeys in it”.

Mr Farrimond denied that he had posted the comment. He said: “Someone must have been on my Facebook page. I didn’t know anything about it until it was posted last week.

“Someone has doctored that. I am not a racist, I wouldn’t do that, I have friends on there with different coloured skin.”

The Wigan Observer has since learnt that Mr Farrimond was arrested on Saturday morning in relation to comments he had allegedly made online although GMP were unable to confirm this.

In reponse to the allegations made about Mr Farrimond, Mr Adamczyk said: “I didn’t know Gary before any of this started, he approached me and offered to help.

“If they are his views then they are his opinions and are in no way affiliated with the group.”

Mr Adamczyk also denied accusations that he has been linked to the North West Infidels and the English Defence League (EDL) in the past. He also denied having retweeted several tweets by former EDL leader Tommy Robinson.