Hundreds gathered on Saturday on Brighton & Hove seafront to protest the UK’s plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. The demonstration was called by Sanctuary on Sea, the Brighton & Hove City of Sanctuary group.
Speaking at the event, Caroline Lucas, MP said: ‘This vicious policy is inhumane, unworkable, probably illegal, and certainly immoral. We’re here to say that we will fight it every step of the way and we’re here to say: Not in our name.’
Richard Williams, Sanctuary on Sea’s chair, warned that the proposals could pull the whole international refugee protection system apart: ‘Our government wants to signal to asylum seekers: You are not welcome, don’t come here.’ He continued: ‘But the message it is sending to the rest of the world – the developing countries that host 85% of refugees – is this: We don’t care about international law and the rights of refugees so you don’t need to bother either.’
Former refugee Leila Zadeh, from Rainbow Migration, called the plan ‘an act of barbarism.’ She particularly highlighted the issues for LGBTQI+ people. Having worked with LGBTQI+ individuals who had fled Rwanda and were trying to get refugee status in the UK, she said that Rwanda was not a safe place for them to be.
Several speakers – who included representatives of Care 4 Calais, Stand Up to Racism and SOAS detainee support – pointed out that the government had struck this ‘dirty deal’ with Rwanda just when the British people were opening their hearts and homes to Ukrainian refugees, just as they had to Afghans and Syrians before them.
Elaine Ortiz, founder of the Hummingbird project, said that young refugees they worked with were likely to ask: ‘Are we going to be sent to Rwanda because of our skin colour?’. She called on the crowd to educate themselves about the Nationality and Borders Bill that is before parliament, educate others and get organised, because that’s how we make change happen.
The Nationality and Borders Bill is entering the final stage of becoming law and goes back to the House of Commons on Wednesday 20 April. This is the last chance to make a stand. Write to your MP now to urge them to #ProtectnotPunish refugees. Find out more here.
You can see a video of all the speeches here.