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Protesters to rally across Britain in solidarity with refugees

PROTESTERS are rallying across Britain tomorrow to demand that the government take responsibility for refugees in Europe and end its “racist” border regime. 

The nationwide day of action, called by Stand up to Racism and Care4Calais, is being held in solidarity with asylum-seekers displaced by the Moria camp fire in Lesbos last week and those facing routine police brutality in northern France. 

Campaigners condemned the British government’s “shameful inaction” in response to the humanitarian crisis in Lesbos where 12,000 refugees have been sleeping in the streets for over a week, with little food or water. 

Lord Alf Dubs, who is supporting today’s rally, said: “No human beings should be left to exist in such circumstances.

“In the interests of humanity and international solidarity we should immediately offer to take some of these unfortunate victims, especially the children, and give them safety in this country. That is my plea to the Home Secretary.”

The protests, which are taking place in cities including London, Glasgow, Newcastle and Manchester, will also highlight the “dangerous scapegoating” by political leaders of refugees and migrants who cross the Channel. 

The Home Office has taken a particularly hard-line approach, threatening to deploy the Navy to intercept dinghies and pledging to deport 1,000 asylum-seekers who arrived in this way before the year ends. 

Campaigners warn that the recent escalation in anti-refugee rhetoric is “fuelling violent far-right and fascist forces,” pointing to demonstrations in Dover earlier this month and harassment of refugees in hotels by fascist group Britain First. 

Labour MP Diane Abbott, who also supports the day of action, claimed that the government is seeking scapegoats to distract from its “catastrophic mishandling” of the Covid-19 crisis. 

Campaigners also condemned the government’s “racist border policies” which they blamed for the death of a Sudanese refugee who drowned in the Channel after attempting to reach Britain in a small dinghy.

Stand up to Racism co-convenor Weyman Bennett said: “The heartbreak and rage we all felt seeing more needless deaths as a result of racist border policies is something that anti-racists cannot stay silent about.

“This is about showing those in the most desperate situation that they have our solidarity, such as those fleeing fire at the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos with nowhere to go, or those who have had to flee each time the French police come to smash up the camps at Calais or Dunkirk.”

Separate demonstrations are also taking place today in London, Coventry and Manchester against Britain’s hostile environment for migrants. 

Migrant-rights groups Rapar and Regularise are calling on the government to grant all undocumented migrants leave to remain. 

Regularise, which is holding a demonstration outside Downing Street at 1pm, said that the Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the suffering felt by people without status who are not entitled to public funds, housing or full access to healthcare. 

The group said that giving all the right to stay in Britain would “provide the necessary protections against issues that those without status currently face such as lack of access to healthcare, which has led to preventable deaths.”

The groups are also condemning the restarting of the government’s detention and deportation regimes despite a rise in Covid cases, with Rapar protesting outside Manchester’s Asylum and Immigration Tribunal Offices at 1pm against the reopening of Immigration Reporting Centres.

Migrant Voice director Nazek Ramadan condemned the reopening of the centres, where people are required to sign in regularly and risk being detained every time they do. 

Ms Ramadan said: “In-person reporting is an unnecessary and gruelling process even in normal times.

“The last few months have given people a welcome respite from the terror of being detained and deported — and that the Home Office are now restarting this, despite rising Covid infections, suggests that looking tough on immigration is more important to them than keeping people safe.”

Today’s protests come amid searing criticism of the Home Office, following the publication of a report by MPs which concluded that the department has based immigration policies on “prejudice” instead of relying on evidence.

The public accounts committee said that Home Secretary Priti Patel’s department was unaware of the damage caused by policy failures on “both the illegal and legitimate migrant populations.” 

Migrant-rights groups said they were not surprised by the report’s findings. 

Bail for Immigration Detainees research and policy co-ordinator Rudy Schulkind said: “MPs have found that the Home Office risks making decisions based on 'anecdote, assumption and prejudice'. We see evidence of this every day in the way that people in immigration detention are treated. 

“Our clients are locked up without a trial at the discretion of Home Office civil servants, with no idea of when or where they will be released to. It is astounding that this department is trusted with such wide-ranging powers of detention and deportation that it can use with very little scrutiny.

“How many more scathing reports are needed before we see meaningful change in the government’s approach to immigration enforcement?”

Find details of the Stand up to Racism protests here.

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