Protest held in Lancaster after refugees drown in Channel crossing
Lancaster and Morecambe residents joined a UK-wide emergency protest in the wake of the tragic deaths of 27 people in the English Channel last week.
The community turned out in numbers on Saturday despite the biting wind to say "refugees are welcome here".
They held a minute's silence for the 27 who tragically died last Wednesday.
The vigil and protest was called by Lancaster and Morecambe Stand Up to Racism, supported by City of Sanctuary, Global Link, East Meets West, Lancaster and Morecambe Trades Union Council and Lancaster and Morecambe National Education Union.
Organisers said: "On Saturday our message was clear. This government does not act or speak for us. The blame for this tragedy lies with the them and their policies.
"They have encouraged traffickers to take even more dangerous routes and even more money from desperate people trying to get to safety. These policies will only lead to more deaths.
"Refugees are welcome here. The only human response is to offer safe passage. Grant asylum. Let them in!"
The protest, on Lancaster Town Hall steps, was timed to coincide with protests outside Downing Street and around the UK.
Speaking at the event, Audrey Glover from Stand Up To Racism said: "Priti Patel and Boris Johnson have blood on their hands. Their policies have led directly to this disaster and I fear there will be more.
"We stand with all those protesting outside Downing Street and in towns and cities up and down the UK. We stand with the people of Hastings who have been helping refugees who land on the beach and who turned out in their hundreds on Thursday night after the tragedy. To offer help and support to desperate people is the human thing to do."
"The crowd was addressed by ten-year-old Abdalla, who made a moving and powerful speech.
He said: "Imagine having to leave your home. Imagine having to travel a thousand miles just to get to safety. Leaving everything behind, your friends, your family and your belongings.
"Well, these are the lives of some people. From all over the world there are refugees that seek asylum. But the problem is that we don’t help enough. We need to realise that we need to help more. Because even though they might be different to you they are still people and we need to help them."
Gwenda Meredith spoke for City of Sanctuary. Her mother came to the UK as a small Jewish child to escape the Nazi holocaust. She dedicated her whole life to giving thanks to the British people.
Gwenda said: "The asylum seekers who drowned on flimsy overcrowded boats in the English Channel last week were individuals with professions and skills, fathers, mothers, young people and children. Lancaster as a City of Sanctuary has welcomed those who have come here to seek asylum."
Mick Mulcahy brought solidarity greetings from Preston Trades Union Council, while Coun David Whitaker thanked everyone for showing solidarity and said we must continue to fight racism and bigotry in all its forms.
Sam Ud-din brought a message of solidarity from the NEU.
"The National Education Union, NEU, deplores the ongoing shameful treatment by this government of all those seeking refuge in this country for whatever reason - be it to escape war, oppression, persecution, starvation or any other cause," he said.
"Our borders should be open to all such refugees and processes must be put in place to allow the swift and safe movement without fear of threat of illegal status being imposed arbitrarily."
Global Link also attended with their banner. Gisela Renolds, director of the charity, which supports asylum seekers and refugees, said: 'This latest tragedy highlights the urgent need for safe routes for refugees.
"The Government should be working out how to process asylum applications on French soil, and how to implement humanitarian visas from countries refugees are fleeing from, rather than fighting with the French and spending millions of pounds trying to keep refugees out.
"This country needs workers, so let's respond to this tragedy with some visionary and compassionate action, and turn a problem into a solution for everyone."