A protest outside a hotel housing asylum-seekers in northwest England erupted into violence on Friday, with projectiles thrown and a police van set aflame.
Merseyside Police said three people were arrested over “incidents of disorder” near the Suites Hotel on Knowsley, near Liverpool.
The force said there was an “initially peaceful” protest outside the hotel as well as a counter-protest by demonstrators supporting refugees.
Police said there were no reports of serious injuries but called the violence “completely unacceptable.”
Local lawmaker George Howarth said the demonstration was triggered by “an alleged incident on social media.”
“The people of Knowsley are not bigots and are welcoming to people escaping from some of the most dangerous places in the world in search of a place of safety,” he said. “Those demonstrating against refugees at this protest tonight do not represent this community.”
Britain takes in fewer asylum-seekers than some of its European neighbors including France and Germany, but has seen a sharp increase in the number of people trying to reach the U.K. across the English Channel in dinghies and other small boats.
More than 45,000 people reached Britain by that route in 2022, and most applied for asylum. The system for considering asylum applications has slowed to a crawl because of political turmoil and bureaucratic delays, leaving many migrants stuck in hotels or other temporary accommodation.
The Channel crossings have become a hot political issue, with the Conservative government promising to “stop the boats.” Opponents accuse the government of demonizing desperate people fleeing war and poverty.
In October, a processing center for new arrivals in the Channel port of Dover was firebombed by an attacker police said was motivated by far-right ideology. He killed himself after the attack.