UK counterterror police takes over probe of migrant center firebombing

Top police official says attack on facility in Dover that processes migrants crossing Channel from northern Europe was targeted, but may not reach threshold of terrorism

Security guards stand in front of the gate near the migrant processing centre in Dover, England, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP/Kin Cheung)
Security guards stand in front of the gate near the migrant processing centre in Dover, England, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP/Kin Cheung)

LONDON — A British counterterrorism unit has taken over an investigation into the firebombing of a migrant processing center, police said on Tuesday.

Homemade incendiary devices were thrown at the Western Jet Foil Border Force center in Dover on Sunday, leaving two staff with minor injuries.

The facility in the busy port town in southeast England processes migrants who have crossed the Channel from northern Europe in small boats.

Interior minister Suella Braverman on Monday said the attack, carried out by a 66-year-old man from High Wycombe, northwest of London, who was later found dead, was not being treated as terror-related.

But Kent Police on Tuesday said officers from Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE) had assumed the lead in the investigation.

Detective Chief Superintendent Olly Wright, head of CTPSE, said there was “nothing to suggest any ongoing wider threat” in Dover or elsewhere.

Fire seen rising for an an immigration center in the English port town of Dover, after a man threw firebombs toward it, October 30, 2022. (Twitter screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

“What appears clear is that this despicable offense was targeted and likely to be driven by some form of hate-filled grievance, though this may not necessarily meet the threshold of terrorism,” he added.

“At this point, the incident itself has not been declared a terrorist incident, but this is being kept under review as the investigation progresses.”

Officers executed a search warrant at a property in the High Wycombe area on Monday and recovered what they said were a “number of items of interest,” which would be examined to try to determine motive.

“There is currently nothing to suggest the man involved was working alongside anyone else,” said Wright.

The attack came as Braverman — reappointed as home secretary despite being sacked by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s short-lived predecessor Liz Truss — is pushing a hard line on migrants.

Suella Braverman, Britain’s Home Secretary arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, October 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

Her description on Monday of record numbers of migrants seeking asylum in Britain as an “invasion” sparked outrage and accusations of inflammatory language.

But she retains Sunak’s backing, his official spokesman told reporters on Tuesday, assessing that Braverman’s choice of words reflected “the sheer scale of the challenge” facing the government.

Some 40,000 people have crossed the Channel in small boats so far this year, with predictions numbers could hit 50,000 or even 60,000 by the year-end.

That has caused a logjam in asylum claims and increased accommodation costs estimated by the government at £6.8 million ($7.8 million) a day.

Braverman, who has previously spoken of her “dream” of sending failed asylum seekers on a one-way ticket to Rwanda, has been accused of deliberately refusing to procure more hotel space for migrants housed at a temporary holding center near Dover.

But she denies blocking the use of hotels.

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