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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.
The financial crisis is setting in, more and more people are finding themselves crippled by debt, while the banks who caused the mess in the first place are bailed out with public money by the government. Things are likely to get worse as people find it harder to get a stable job and affordable housing. We live in a world built by the creativity and co-operation of working class people, run for the benefit of the rich. The media and politicians, like the new Minister for Borders and Immigration Phil Woolas, would have us blaming migrants and ethnic minorities for our problems. We are told that migrants come here and take British people’s jobs. We are told that they are given and easy ride and preferential treatment with respect to benefits and social housing.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Asylum applicants are only entitled to around seventy percent of the lowest form of income support and are not allowed to work. Migrant workers and families are usually only allowed into the UK if they will maintain and accommodate themselves without recourse to public funds. Refused refugees who agree to ‘voluntary’ return home do not receive any money but £35 worth of vouchers per week, only redeemable in certain supermarkets. Other refused asylum applicants will receive no welfare benefits, are not allowed to work and are unable to access social housing. Even some migrants who have been allowed to remain in the UK for a certain period will only be allowed to do so on the condition that they have ‘no recourse to public funds’.
The vast majority of refugees who seek asylum in the UK have their claims rejected, largely due to a culture of disbelief within the Home Office, who have explicitly stated that they aim to deport more people than claim asylum. Hardly a system that is likely to do all it can to make sure people’s applications are properly heard.
Many fear returning homes because of the persecution they would face, others are unable to because their countries are war zones and are too dangerous. Take Iraq for instance, where a US and UK led invasion has completely destabilised the country and even conservative estimates of civilian casualties have the death toll in the hundreds of thousands.
Unable to ‘legally’ work, with meagre benefits cut and housing provision taken away, thousands of refugees around the UK are forced into destitution every year.
It amounts to nothing more than trying to starve people out of the country.
Some turn to working ‘illegally’, where they risk being imprisoned and deported for doing nothing other than trying to keep their heads above water. Others get by through mutual aid and the support of community networks of friends and neighbours. Support is also provided by a number of voluntary organisations. As a means of making such support more visible, we have put together a list of organisations in the Cardiff area. If you know of any other similar organisations in south Wales please let us know and we’ll add them to the list.
It’s really good that some people care, cos the Home Office sure doesn’t! No Borders South Wales believes that access to welfare, health, social care, education and housing services should not be denied due to your immigration status. We call on such services to be provided according to need and they should not be used to enforce racist immigration laws.