The protests have been condemned by police and MPs, seeing three arrested on suspicion of violent disorder and taken to police stations to be questioned.
Reports shared that protesters hurled missiles and damaged a police van.
Officers in Prescot, Knowsley dealt with the two groups of originally peaceful protests before the demonstration descended into chaos outside the Suites Hotel in Ribblers Lane.
Knowsley MP Sir George Howarth said the demonstration was triggered by “an alleged incident on social media” and criticised misinformation claiming refugees were “feather-bedded” inside.
We are deeply distressed that a far right protest in Knowsley has led to riots. We can’t imagine the terror of the people inside the hotel. Far right protestors have set fire to a police van pic.twitter.com/Cam1ABjCeM
— Care4Calais (@Care4Calais) February 10, 2023
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper called the behaviour of protesters “shameful and appalling”.
“Thank you to Merseyside police for responding to the shameful violence & appalling behaviour in Knowsley this evening that put people at risk & for working to keep everyone safe,” she wrote on Twitter.
Protest sees police van set on fire at asylum seeker hotel
Clare Moseley, the founder of refugee charity Care4Calais, said she was among 100 to 120 people from pro-migrant groups who went to the scene in reaction to the protest to show support for the asylum seekers.
As she told PA news agency: “I’m trying to get in touch with some of the poor men in that hotel, I can only imagine how frightened they are.
“It was like a war zone.”
Some asylum-seeker advocacy groups have accused protesters of being affiliated with the far right.
I am both saddened and concerned to have seen the situation unfold outside the Suites Hotel in Kirkby this evening. The behaviour of those involved was totally unacceptable and has put safety of the local community, police officers & our emergency services on the scene, at risk.
— Cllr Graham Morgan (@Knowsley_Leader) February 10, 2023
Refugee Action chief executive Tim Naor Hilton wrote on Twitter: “If you’re part of a baying mob outside a hotel where refugees live then you’re the far right…even if you don’t like being called that.”
Mark Davies, head of communications and campaigns at the Refugee Council, said those who had participated in or encouraged Friday night’s protests had brought “shame on this country’s long and proud record” of helping those in need.”
Adding: “Those who encourage and take part in disorder like this bring shame on this country’s long and proud record of reaching out to support those in need wherever they come from.”