The money grabbing “Migrant Hunters”
The grifters introduced in this article call themselves the ‘migrant hunters’.
These activists aim to capitalise on the nationalist ‘migrant invasion’ conspiracy by ‘exposing the problem’. This consists of showcasing footage of people coming to Dover by boat and the accommodation they stay in, then casting themselves as the hero by harassing ‘migrants’ and hotel staff. The purpose is twofold: to get their footage in the mainstream news and the right wing press, thus boosting their profile and normalising the image of the migrant as the villain and the fascist as the hero; and to make money through pushing for donations as the best way to support their ‘important work’.
On Their Tactics
Much of their time is spent staking out the coastline in South-East England, particularly in Dover which saw a greater number of people arrive by small boat during 2020 – the ‘migrant hunters’ wait nearby, often hanging out in a particular nearby B&B, shut to the public but still welcoming of the grifters due to the owner being sympathetic to the cause. They monitor sites like MarineTraffic.com, and stand on the coast watching for anything out of the ordinary.
Once something is spotted, they rush down to the shore, armed with a camera and selfie stick, keen to capture the images of hypothermic, terrified refugees who just completed a potentially life-threatening journey. Capturing this ‘money shot’ inevitably sends their viewer numbers soaring, casts them as heroes of the frontline to their far right following, and kicks the grift into overdrive. On several occasions, they have arrived before Border Force and chased after refugees themselves. One grifter, Alan Leggett aka ‘Active Patriot’, recently reuploaded a video of himself and others chasing down refugees through the footpaths that lead from the shore onto the mainland.
When they’re not at the coastline, they’re stalking refugees as they go through the asylum process – in August 2020 for example, a grifter called Nick Pledger (‘Patriotic Crusader’) streamed an incident where himself and others tailed a coach of refugees in to find out the destination. Upon arrival, they took photos and videos of the activities. Having discovered the new destination, the grifters began making regular visits, patrolling the premises and intimidating its residents.
Whether it be some kind of processing centre, a hotel, or an army barracks, they spend time looking for vulnerabilities to exploit to gain access to their targets: communal areas where refugees congregate, alternative entry points, flawed security protocols, and more. Here, the desired content is conversations with refugees themselves – to get up close and personal so that they can shout invasive questions like “HOW MUCH DID YOU PAY,” at folks who are clearly very uncomfortable with the interaction. If the refugees don’t talk, they’re often cast by the grifter as hostile, as if the refugees owe them a conversation. The same goes for the staff – eventually, employees of the hotels or security catch wind of the situation, and approach the grifter to leave, who then redirects their barrage of questions at them instead while refusing to cooperate.
This often results in the grifter being forcibly removed from the premises which plays in to their narrative of there being protection for the migrants, and no protection for the ‘indigenous Brits’. Rather than being seen as a hindrance, the grifters’ forced removal from such areas fosters the perception of an opaque system, where ‘what’s really going on’ is hidden from the public, justifying their actions in ‘exposing the truth’. In reality, they are simply harassing hotel staff for following safeguarding procedures. This is particularly effective in the echo chamber of their followers, who are already convinced that the system is corrupted against them and equally as culpable as the migrants themselves, so the donations continue to flow as the grifters turn their anger on border force, private security, and local police.
This behaviour certainly helps in their quest to get their footage broadcast by right wing media outlets like Breitbart and Politicalite, personalities like Tommy Robinson and Nigel Farage, and in some cases mainstream news outlets such as the BBC – in August 2020 for example, the BBC, in all their expected wisdom, featured Jeremy Davis (‘Little Boats’) in an article called “The Wedding DJ was wants to stop migrant boats”. Davis is a wedding DJ turned mickey mouse admiral who got his 15 minutes through taking out his own boats into the channel as a ‘patrol’. The BBC initially presented Davis and various other grifters as ‘concerned locals’ initially, then ‘campaigners’, neglecting to mention their easily spotted links with the far right and presenting their rhetoric as Much To Think About, as you can expect from a pro-government broadcaster who are funded by the same lot who put Priti Patel in the Home Office. The article has since been amended to make the far-right links clear, but only after public pressure from anti-racists.
Perhaps the biggest goldrush for the grifters however, comes from the platforming and advertising from far right ‘alternative media’ – Jack Dawkins, The Reality Report, Tommy Robinson and TR News to name a few. ‘Alternative media’, who can arguably be labelled as grifters themselves, often platform the migrant hunters in a fashion that pushes up their donations through spreading their links, while parading them as heroes of the front line.
On the Far Right Narrative of the ‘Migrant Invasion’
It is not a new phenomenon within the far right to exploit refugee crises (see this Hope Not Hate article published in August 2020 which provides good background). Their grift revolves around perpetuating the myth that the country is being swarmed by thousands of ‘fighting age men’, travelling through several safe countries on their way into the UK, in order to obtain easy access to benefits and housing. They claim that it isn’t about race, religion or colour, that they are simply “concerned citizens putting the truth out there”.
Their content is also dripping with militaristic style, war-time language – describing the arrival of refugees as a ‘migrant invasion’, and themselves as ‘hunters’ who are ‘defending our own on the frontline’, and their followers lap this up. The far right’s narrative often relies on a combination of wartime Blitz spirit nostalgia and the impression that the country is actually fighting a war – in this same way, it benefits the grifters to build their content on the false notion that asylum seekers are not humans in need of safety but are actually enemies that must be violently opposed. And so, they use their platforms to present a very carefully cherry-picked and biased representation of the situation, ultimately making a mockery of any idea of fair and honest fact-finding. They take little notice of the women and children who do make the dangerous crossing, or of the reports of inhumane treatment of those currently contained within Priti Patel’s army barracks, simply refusing to acknowledge the human suffering they capture on their cameras.
Crucially, as reporter Rick Dillon recently wrote in his recent article “On a beach in Sussex, migrant myths exposed, where he discusses the not so dissimilar misrepresentation of refugees in the right wing press: “neglected in this tumult is a simple fact: ‘migrants’ are people seeking a new life in our country of their own free will, while the people on board those unsafe boats, sometimes little more than rubber dinghies, are by and large fleeing conflict zones where they are in fear of their lives.”
It is the people fleeing conflict zones who are the very souls that the grifters target – they are pitting vulnerable refugees against ‘British citizens’ (which means in their eyes, the ‘white English’), classing them as ‘illegal migrants’ (regardless of their legal status while they undertake the asylum process), and hinging on a divisive narrative that portrays refugees as undesirables, coming to the UK to exploit the system, and presenting a physical threat to ‘our women’ and ‘our children’.
Away from the livestreams, they are not so good at keeping up the facade – their social media accounts are often peppered with white supremacist, anti-black, Islamophobic, anti-LGBTQ+ posts. Some are open supporters of other white nationalist organisations such as the English Democrats, the Proud Boys and Britain First. Some have been swept up by the Q Anon movement, some are COVID hoaxers. We look forward to sharing these findings in further detail shortly.
One thing is for sure – when you scratch the surface of their image, it becomes clear that these individuals are primarily self-serving, money-chasing grifters that have no issue with the potential harm caused by pandering to dangerous nationalist rhetoric. They frame themselves as truth tellers when they’re nothing more than bottom-feeding sensationalists stoking fear and hate for personal gain.