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The summer of 2015 has seen a massing of support for refugees in Europe. If even the typically hostile Daily Mail urges us to think of the lives lost in the Mediterranean, inflammatory and completely dehumanising remarks like those of Katie Hopkins, just seem like a distant memory – and the fear towards ‘the other’ that the media had for so long attempted to smear us all with, appears to finally be well and truly changing.

In this context, and the thousands of people who are joining social media campaigns, setting up groups and organisations, raising thousands of pounds in donations, and making trips to Calais, as well as now also contacting existing organisations to ask to find out more and offer help, and helping to bring existing campaigns (like those of City of Sanctuary, Oxfam and Citizens UK) closer together in a wider spirit of solidarity, we could be heading towards a shift from the ‘little islander’ narrative that parties like UKIP have played on, and create a new narrative of international solidarity and a shared destiny for us as 21st century global citizens. However the next months transpire in terms of the media coverage and levels of support, people will still want to seek sanctuary in Europe from military warfare and the more oppressive regimes, so we must not forget the thousands of people who are still yet to make Britain their home, at least for some time, and show people some of the same welcome that has been so inspiring to see transcribed on banners across football stadiums in cities in Germany, and at the railway stations as people arrive – including now in Budapest, as donated shoes are left for the next to arrive there.

Wales has come together to show its support – the Nation of Sanctuary campaign has been launched and Facebook groups to support people in Calais and beyond have attracted thousands of people. Here are some for west and south Wales:

SW Wales

Torfaen, Abergavenny /Monmouth

Welcome to Wales (Croeso i Gymru) road sign South Road signs Signs and Signage

Cardiff became the city it is today because of immigration. The docks in Cardiff were built by the sweat of the brow of Irish migrant labour in the nineteenth century. They brought people from around the world to settle here and build a life for themselves. We need a 21st century culture of hospitality and welcome across Wales, especially for refugees who are seeking sanctuary from war and persecution.

At midday today, Wales will hold at least three demonstrations to support refugees and migrants, and highlight the need for greater support for Syrians and other asylum seekers already in the UK. The Cardiff demonstration is called ‘Wales says #RefugeesWelcome’ – marking the hashtag that trended as opinions about this summer’s refugee crisis changed. It will assemble at the statue of Aneurin Bevan, as we remember that the NHS wouldn’t be the same without the hard work and dedication of migrant labour in Britain. It will end with a march to the Home Office on Newport Road.

This protest has been initiated by campaigners from Cardiff People’s Assembly, Cardiff Stop the War Coalition. HOPE not hate South Wales, No Borders South Wales, Rumney Forum, UNITE Cardiff Community Branch and others. It is supported by Welsh Refugee Council and Trinity Centre Cardiff. It is part of a European day of action. The activists of Europe can work together, even as the governments of the nation states argue over who is to blame and what principles of the EU might remain after this summer. It is in fact working class solidarity that is needed more than ever, and is a part of the migrant struggle. If the working class is divided, the elite find it easier to exploit us – it is only through solidarity that we can build on what we have in common, then focusing together on the need to challenge those elite powers, that, at the moment, can decide all our lives and our futures – and work together to not be dominated by them. The refugees’ struggle is our struggle, and we’ve got a world to win.

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Citizens UK is an organisation that aims to unite “community leaders” for a strong civil society. The ‘Temple of Peace & Health’ was the host to an event by Citizens UK to develop a chapter in Cardiff.

Four activists from Cardiff decided to try and bring some accountability to the organisation on December 5th this month, after experiencing the effect that family detention and deportations have on people known closely.

Party leaders and Citizens UK - failed

Party leaders and Citizens UK – failed

The reason that Citizens UK is a target, is that despite having a campaign to end child detention in the UK, it has failed to speak out since the opening of the most recent detention centre, CEDARS, which opened last year. CEDARS is controversially partly run by charity Barnardos, for families in the UK, and despite the fact that no open procurement tendering process for the facility, (as required by EU and UK legislation), took place, activists came together over a year ago to try and close CEDARS before it was even open, which was also made harder by public access to the planning application being restricted.[1] Because of the difficult nature of the campaign in 2011 and noticeable absence of more establishment campaign groups backing it, CEDARS opened in August 2011. Since then, the centre has held over 40 families and around 100 children, yet Citizens UK still attempt to claim on its website that all child detention has ended, when UKBA figures themselves contradict this.[2]

Offical figures show that hundreds of children have been detained since 2010, some of them more than once – which breaks the ‘red lines'[3] that Barnardos have set themselves in the running of this detention centre – and in the figures released by UKBA only days before, 47 children have been detained by UKBA in the last 3 months, with more than half of those in existing detention centres, explicitly against one of the campaign demands that Citizens UK had in 2010.[4]

Leaflets with these facts, and a quote from Citizens UK claiming that all child detention has ended, were taken to the event at the Temple of Peace, Cathays Park, and left on every table and in front of most of the attendees.[5] This leaflet also questioned why Citizens UK has not spoken out against CEDARS detention centre and highlighted the campaign that is ongoing against Barnardos for allowing this detention centre to be built due to its complicity in the running of it as an accomplice to notorious security company G4S.

As the charity Medical Justice puts it:

“they ruined the campaign to end the detention of children, which campaigners felt could be achievable as the government had already promised it.”

As the distribution of these leaflets was allowed to take place without incident, despite them being very critical of Citizens UK, campaigners stayed for a while to talk to some participants about their concerns. Some participants even came themselves to talk to the group, and after a brief discussion about the groups aims, we wait to see if Citizens UK might now speak out against future detention, or campaigners might be back to future events to hold them to account for 2010 promises.

Cardiff activists also encourage other groups to take the campaign to Citizens UK in other cities until child detention has finally ended in the UK.

An injury to one is an injury to all!

No-one is illegal!

End all child detention!

For more information about the campaign to end child detention in the UK see: http://network23.org/barnardosout  /  http://ecdn.org/

Footnotes

[1] http://london.noborders.org.uk/node/473

[2] http://www.justiceandpeacescotland.org.uk/Home/tabid/40/ctl/details/itemid/651/mid/531/ukba-immigration-statistics-quarter-3-julyaugustseptember-2012.aspx

[3] http://www.barnardos.org.uk/news/media_centre/press_releases.htm?ref=70802

[4] http://diaspora-newcitizens.nationbuilder.com/child_detention

[5] Leaflet below

Leaflets were made that called on Citizens UK to speak out against CEDARS

Leaflets were made that called on Citizens UK to speak out against CEDARS

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