Jabbing a finger in the direction of the Bell hotel, Paula Clarke was in no doubt as to what needed to happen to it. “They need to build an electrified fence around the place. It’s the only way to protect us,” said the 68-year-old.
The hotel, which was originally a 16th-century coaching inn and is sited on the southern approach to the town of Epping in Essex, can never before have generated so much fear and loathing. Some nearby residents want its current occupants deported. Others feel very differently, proud to offer them sanctuary.
The Bell is one of around 20 hotels chosen by the Home Office to temporarily house asylum seekers as their claims are assessed amid a shortage of permanent accommodation.
The scheme has illuminated the fault lines of Brexit Britain, revealing how disinformation can distort the debate on immigration. It has also electrified the far right, eager to exploit fears in a traditional Tory heartland that voted 62.7% Leave in the EU referendum.
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