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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:
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.
Racist vans, harassment of migrants via text messages from private companies, cuts to legal aid, cuts to English language learning provision, cuts in support services – and phone-lines that people now struggle to use…and more to come from the new Immigration Bill – some might just conclude that the government’s policies are an attack on the vulnerable, but then again, when hasn’t this been the case?
Home Secretary, Theresa May has openly stated a desire to create a “hostile environment” for all but “the brightest and best” migrants.
But whatever governments try to do, people will be there, working together in unity and solidarity to try and change the far-right policies that don’t help anyone, even the richest or bigoted.
Action has been taking place around Europe to build resistance and empower people to stand up for their rights.
The ‘March for Freedom‘ walked for 450km between Strasburg and Brussels, and defied laws by crossing borders that is now a normal occurrence for Europe’s citizens, but denied to vistors seeking sanctuary from wars and conflict.
Activists in Calais have stood up to openly fascist groups and seen support grow as far-right demos were cancelled. Many have now reclaimed a major space in the city to use for solidarity work.
Here in south Wales, activists have recently become involved in the necessary work to support destitute asylum seekers. The government cuts are forcing more people to sleep rough. Cardiff Destitution Network is helping to make the grass-route changes that challenge this bogus system, it was set up by solidarity activists in CMS Wales, which has been active since 2012 after being inspired by the Unity Centre in Glasgow. Some activists have spent less time coming to meetings and more time helping to promote events and organise local benefit gigs which help to fund the vital work that keeps people safe and alive.
Some have worked with various organisations to help make Cardiff a ‘City of Sanctuary’ – hoping that their input helps to make a real difference on the ground so that those that need to the most can directly benefit from the ‘award’.
Many others have been involved in anti-deportation campaigning, alongside friends in south Wales and a now released Dignity marcher to South Wales from Bristol.
We want to build on this though.
We have plans to hold a day of action during the NATO summit in South Wales, and also to help organise a new No Borders Convergence, bringing together migration activists from all over the UK and beyond. Our friends in Bristol and Leeds are growing the No Borders struggles there, and other groups in Manchester, Brighton, Oxford and Nottingham are building a new Migrant Solidarity Network, which Cardiff is also linked to.
This work is to create a world where no one is oppressed or discriminated against because of their status, ethnicity, gender or sexuality.
We want a No Borders group again, that will use protests and many forms of direct action to get results. When detention centres have been blockaded and flights have been cancelled, people’s lives have been saved. We’re meeting tonight to help make this happen. We hope that you can join us at Cathays Community Centre from 6pm to be a part of it. We will aim to meet regularly after that.
You can contact us for more information but we’d like to see you stand together with us if possible.
For a world without borders, in which all are equal and live without conflict.