Solidarity with refugees

TENS OF thousands of people last Saturday marched through central London to call on the Government to do more to help refugees. It coincided with similar marches in other European capitals on the same day.

The event was supported by the Refugee Council, Amnesty International, the Syria Solidarity Movement, Stand Up to Racism and the Stop the War Coalition.

Marchers called on the Government to accept a lot more refugees into Britain than the 20,000 he has pledged to accept — over the next five years. Most western European countries are accepting far more than this and many feel ashamed that Britain is not taking its share of the influx — especially when British foreign policy is one of the main causes of the refugee crisis.

Marchers were also demanding an end to British and Nato interference, invasions, bombings and drone strikes against those countries in the Middle East and north Africa where most of the refugees are coming from — fleeing because the attacks have made their homes unsafe to live in.

The Solidarity with Refugees march on Saturday began at Park Lane and proceeded to Downing Street, with speeches in Parliament Square from a number of politicians and public figures including Jeremy Corbyn, the newly elected leader of the Labour party, and musician and activist Billy Bragg.

Corbyn addressed his speech to the Government: “Recognise your obligations to help people which you’re required to do by law that would be good. But above all, open your hearts and open your minds and open your attitude towards supporting people who are desperate, who need somewhere safe to live, want to contribute to our society, and are human beings just like all of us.

“Together in peace, together in justice, together in humanity, that surely must be our way forward.”

The Labour leader said there is a “popular uprising” across Europe “in favour of decency and humanity” and that Britain must “spend our resources on helping and not hindering people and to bring about that world of human rights and justice.”

His speech was followed by an enthusiastic solo rendition of The Red Flag by Billy Bragg.

The singer said: “People are beginning to understand that we do have a lot in common with one another and it’s possible to create a society where people’s needs are put first.

“The demonization of people in need that’s gone on in this country is not the kind of Britain I grew up in — that everyone who’s in need is a scrounger and all refugees are terrorists. It’s not the compassionate society I want Britain to be seen as around the world.”

Among those leading the chanting on the march was nine-year-old Maya, the daughter of a Chilean refugee. She led the call and response as her mother Isabelle Cortes, 43, looked on proudly, wrapped in Chilean flag.

“I came here in 1978 as a child,” said Ms Cortes. “My daughter is a daughter of a refugee. Britain opened its doors to my mother. She studied English and worked hard to raise me.

“Cameron’s 20,000 is a joke. We must do more. I hope Corbyn is the start of that.”

Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action said: “Today’s message could not be clearer. Britain welcomes refugees. In 100 ways in 100 towns and cities, people are stepping up to help. Today they are asking all our political leaders to do the same.”