SDLP Ballymena councillor Eugene Reid has called on DUP councillor Marc Collins to retract comments he had made about asylum seekers staying in the the local area.
It comes after the Home Office housed a number of asylum seekers at the Loughshore Hotel in Carrickfergus.
Mr Collins said there were “plenty within our own communities who need help first and foremost”. A number of racist online comments have also been made about the decision.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council are set to meet behind closed doors next Monday, July 26, to discuss the situation at the hotel.
Cllr Reid said that there was a need for empathy and kindness on the matter.
The Ballymena councillor said:
“The comments made by the DUP’s Marc Collins on social media were short-sighted and disgraceful. They will feed into the ugly commentary currently taking place about the arrival of asylum seekers into Mid and East Antrim and provoke tensions. Perhaps I should not be surprised given previous comments from his party colleagues on these matters, but if he had any sense he would apologise and issue a retraction for his inflammatory remarks.
“I welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter at the council meeting on Monday night. The Home Office under the Tory government at Westminster has become hostile to those who have come here in need of sanctuary and shelter. It is important to establish exactly what the Home Office’s long-term plans are in this situation. Regardless, these individuals should be treated with kindness, empathy and compassion. That shouldn’t be too much to ask for people fleeing from conflict and human rights abuses and I will be advocating that position at the meeting.
“This week my SDLP colleagues Colum Eastwood and Claire Hanna opposed the British Government’s latest attack on Asylum seekers in the House of Commons by registering their objection to the Nationality and Borders Bill. It seeks to force people fleeing conflict and human rights abuses to undertake dangerous and life-risking journeys to sanctuary and will also criminalise and punish those who are most vulnerable and curtail their rights to family reunion, keeping families and children apart. The SDLP will always stand with vulnerable people in need of help.
“A tiny number of the UK’s asylum seekers end up in the North and thankfully the vast majority have received a warm welcome. I would ask that those who arrived recently into our area are afforded the same and spared the bigotry put forward from some quarters."