A Conservative MP has been urged to apologise after he went on TV and named a hotel in his constituency where asylum seekers will be housed.
Jonathan Gullis, who made the comments 48 hours after a fire-bomb attack on an immigration centre, was accused by opposition MPs of “emboldening” those would seek to harm migrants.
Mr Gullis, a former minister, claimed migrants were “coming to the UK for no reason whatsoever” as he announced where his constituents could find them. In reality, the government’s own figures show the vast majority claim asylum, with a majority accepted as legitimate refugees.
In the same appearance on Channel 4 News on Monday night the Stoke MP complained at the number of people being housed in his constituency.
“The Home Secretary’s made it clear that she has sought to seek hotel accommodation. But let’s be quite frank, the British people aren’t happy with this,” he said.
“This is a totally unacceptable situation to people, particularly in places like Stoke on Trent, which is the fifth largest contributor to the asylum dispersal scheme in his country, where we already have over 800 people in our city.”
Mr Gullis went on to name a hotel where a further 80 people would be housed and claimed that the local police and council were opposed.
Far-right groups have targeted hotels used to house asylum seekers in the past, and on Saturday morning a man threw petrol bombs attached to fireworks at a centre for processing migrants in Dover.
Mr Gullis’s comments come amid concern that government rhetoric could be putting people in danger and whipping up hatred.
Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said the MP’s comments were part of a “determined and orchestrated campaign to demonise asylum seekers”.
“Jonathan Gullis should apologise but he probably won’t. If he had any decency he would not have said it in the first place,” Mr Carmichael said.
“These things are not said by accident. He is part of a determined and orchestrated campaign to demonise asylum seekers ultimately for no better reason than that they are ‘different’.
“It is not the Jonathan Gullises or Suella Bravermans of this world that throw the bombs or attack people in the street but the views that they articulate embolden others who might.”
Mr Carmichael added: “We need a reasoned and rational debate around these issues. One which is based in facts and not overblown rhetoric.
“This morning we should be talking about the failure of the Conservatives to process more than 4 per cent of asylum applications last year.
“We should be talking about Suella Braverman’s incompetence, and not her attention-seeking and hate-filled rhetoric.”
Mr Gullis’s decision to name the hotel comes as embattled Home Secretary Suella Braverman denounced an “invasion” of people arriving on Britain’s shores to claim asylum.
In a Commons statement Ms Braverman on Monday rejected claims she had deliberately blocked the use of hotels to ease the pressure on a processing facility at Manston.
Around 4,000 people are being held at the former RAF base, which is only designed to accommodate 1,600 people on a temporary basis. Prison inspectors have warned the situation at the centre has “significantly deteriorated” in recent weeks, even since a highly critical inspection.
The situation worsened again this weekend after hundreds of people were moved to the centre from the other location which was attacked by firebombs.
Asked about Mr Gullis’s comment at a regular briefing of journalists in Westminster, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “It’s important that individuals who come here are treated with with compassion and dignity and respect. I’m not aware of that specific incident. Obviously, we wouldn’t seek to do anything that puts individuals at risk.”