A wave of anti-refugee hate has been unleashed in the wake of news Manchester bomber Salman Abedi was evacuated from Libya by the British navy – despite the fact he was not a refugee.
Prominent right-wing figures have denounced EU member states for providing sanctuary to refugees, citing Abedi as an example of the risks inherent in allowing migrants from the Middle East and Africa into the UK.
Abedi – a British national who was born in Manchester – is understood to have been visiting the Libyan capital Tripoli with his younger brother when violence worsened in 2014, prompting the UK government to advise its citizens to leave the country.
The HMS Enterprise was dispatched to evacuate Abedi and more than 100 other British citizens after fighting between rival militias forced Libya’s main international airport in Tripoli to shut.
Libya had become destabilised following a Nato bombing campaign spearheaded by Britain and France to protect civilians and oust Muammar Gaddafi, leading Barack Obama to criticise David Cameron personally for subsequently allowing the country to spiral into a chaotic “s*** show”.
Seven children were among the 22 victims killed when Abedi detonated a homemade suicide vest at Grande’s Manchester Arena concert last May.
Abedi was being monitored by security services when he travelled to Libya, but his case was closed a month before he was evacuated.
The Anderson review into the Manchester attack found that the decision to close Abedi’s case as a “subject of interest” was sound, according to the information available at the time. It was assessed he was radicalised after leaving Libya in 2014.
The Daily Mail printed the story about Abedi’s evacuation on its front page with the headline: “Sickening act of betrayal”.
Former leader of Ukip Nigel Farage posted a photograph of the front page on Twitter, saying: “Europe is committing suicide.”
Leave.EU, one of two major groups that campaigned for Brexit, posted a composite picture on Twitter including images of Abedi, a snake, and the HMS Enterprise with rescued migrants aboard.
Across the image is the message: “Rescued by the Royal Navy in Libya, Salman Abedi thanked Britain by bombing our kids.”
The group added in its Twitter post: “Salman Abedi, the sick Islamist who murdered British kids at a Manchester concert, was rescued from Libya by the navy.
“How many more of these filthy, despicable snakes has the government ferried into Britain?!”
The HMS Enterprise has various purposes and has been deployed as part of a Europe-wide mission to rescue refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, where more than 17,000 men, women and children have drowned since 2014.
Abedi is understood to only have boarded the ship as part of the organised evacuation of British citizens from Tripoli, under his real name and with assistance from the Border Force.
Martin Daubney, a TV pundit and former editor of Loaded magazine, said in a Twitter post: ”Manchester bomber Salman Abedi represents everything that’s wrong with the #RefugeesWelcome mentality. To be physically rescued by the Royal Navy, then to kill 22 and maim others? Utterly horrific.”
Members of the public also posted anti-refugee comments on social media, including Tim Stain, whose Facebook profile says he owns his own business.
He shared an article about Abedi’s so-called “rescue”, saying: “This scum bag just convinces me even more that we should not let any immigrants in from these countries, don’t blame us immigrants blame this scum bag who blew our kids up after we saved his life. Look after our own first.”
Steven Edwards said on Facebook: “Makes me sick. I voted to leave the EU for the main reason is I don’t want anymore immigrants let into the UK as they are a massive burden on our NHS, education, welfare and national security. And yet our boarders [sic] are still open.”
David Ette, from Leicester, also shared the article, simply saying: “More refugees???… mmm.”
Abedi’s parents, Ramadan Abedi and Samia Tabbal, escaped the Gaddafi regime in the early 1990s and and were granted asylum in Britain, but they now live in Tripoli.
A Government spokesman said: “During the deteriorating security situation in Libya in 2014, border force officials were deployed to assist with the evacuation of British nationals and their dependants.”