Lancaster residents hold rally to call on MP to vote against government plans for anti-refugee bill
Many wore orange hearts as a symbol to welcome refugees, as part of a national Together with Refugees Week of Action.
Bayan Faiq, a Kurdish refugee, told the rally how she and her family, including her six-month-old baby, were so desperate to flee persecution in Iraq that they spent 15 hours in the back of a freezer lorry to make it to safety in the UK.
She described how well the family has settled in Lancaster, including opening up their own business.
But, under the proposed Borders and Nationalities legislation, the family could have ended up back in Iraq, or, at best, destitute in Lancaster, with only 30 months Leave to Remain in the UK.
Gisela Renolds from Global Link outlined how the Bill breaks both international and domestic law, and highlighted the contradictions in the way the UK Government treats Afghans who have arrived in the UK through a resettlement programme, and those who make their own way across the Channel.
Leader of the city council Caroline Jackson described the suffering and destitution the Bill will cause to those refugees who make it to the UK, while Jon Scarman from St Thomas’ Church described the impact of those fleeing religious persecution from Iran who have no legal route to seek asylum in the UK, but contribute so much to the UK when their refugee status is approved.
Audrey Glover from Stand Up to Racism outlined the ways in which the Bill will lead to more refugee deaths at sea, and Sam Ud-din from the National Education Union read out a statement from Cat Smith MP against the Bill.
The rally ended with a direct appeal to Morecambe MP David Morris to vote against the Bill when it reaches voting stage in Parliament next month.
One recent arrival from Eritrea, which has a military dictatorship, said: "This event was amazing. It made us feel really welcome in Lancaster."
Gisela Renolds said: "The people of this country are better than this Government, and we cannot let them undo the good work that is happening to make the UK a kinder, more compassionate place."
The event, organised by Global Link and Lancaster & Morecambe City of Sanctuary, took place as part of the Together With Refugees week of action, which is taking place between October 18 and 24, with thousands gathering to protest in towns up and down the UK.
The week comes as MPs return to Parliament to consider the Nationality and Borders Bill currently making its way through the House of Commons.
The new legislation would mean that most people who would be accepted as refugees under the current rules - meaning those confirmed to have fled war or persecution following rigorous official checks - would no longer have their rights recognised in the UK due to their method of arrival.
Half of these would be women and children and includes those left behind in Afghanistan.
The Together with Refugees coalition is calling for a more effective, fair and humane approach to the UK’s refugee system that: allows people to have a fair and efficient hearing for their claim for protection, including those who endured traumas and struggle to get here; ensures people can live in dignity in communities while they wait to find out if they will be granted protection; enables refugees to rebuild their lives and make valuable contributions to their communities; and where the UK works with other countries to do its part to help people forced to flee their homes.
To find out more go online here.