Despite the freezing conditions, passionate cries of “say it loud and say it clear, refugees are welcome here!” echoed amongst busy shoppers and German Market stalls.
The protest followed the horrific drowning of at least 27 people as they attempted to cross from France to England in a small vessel last week.
Of those who lost their lives, 17 were men, seven women (one of whom was pregnant) and three were children. They lost their lives on November 24 in the English Channel near Calais after their boat sank.
They were believed to be migrating to seek safety and asylum in the UK. Their deaths have prompted calls for action on both sides of the Channel.
On Saturday (November 27), hundreds gathered in Birmingham city centre, High Street expressing their support for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers fleeing persecution and war.
Migrant Voice and Stand Up To Racism Birmingham co-organised the event. Protester Ed Freshwater said: “The way I felt about what happened in the Channel, it was entirely predictable, indeed it was predicted.
“It was entirely the result of the policies of this government, the government have got blood on their hands. It’s shameful, it’s despicable, it’s inhumane , and it’s utterly, utterly heart breaking.
BrumWish 2021 aims to get thousands of Christmas gifts to young children in need across our city – the homeless, the vulnerable, kids in care and kids who have little.
This year’s appeal is bigger and better than ever – because we have teamed up with our partners at #Toys4Birmingham, including Thrive Together Birmingham, the Birmingham Playcare Network, the Edgbaston Foundation and Birmingham Forward Steps.
Also involved are Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust, Barnardo’s, Spurgeon’s children’s charity, the Springfield project in Sparkhill, St Paul’s Community Development Trust and Your Local Pantry, which runs food hubs in 12 locations across Birmingham and the Black Country.
You can buy a gift from the #Brumwish Amazon Wishlist here.
Or you can collect and drop off donations of new and nearly new toys and gifts to special donation days at Edgbaston Stadium, B5 7QU, on Saturday November 27, Friday December 3 and Saturday December 4, from 11am to 3pm, where volunteers will be waiting to see you.
Brand new or nearly new, unwrapped gifts, books and toys for all ages will be accepted.
You can also donate cash, which will go into a fund held by a charity partner to use to plug gaps or buy specialist toys for children with additional needs. This is the link to make a donation.
“It’s really important in the face of the government’s really horrific, hostile, compassionless and inhumane policy, to show solidarity with refugees.
“No matter if they’re in this country or if they’re trying to get to this country, wherever they are in the world.”
Protesters from all backgrounds could be seen wrapped in coats, gloves and masks in the bitter cold.
Children attending the rally displayed hand-made signs stating ‘Don’t let them drown’ and ‘We are all human beings’.
Nazek Ramadan, director of national charity Migrant Voice, said: “In terms of safe routes, there’s almost no way for asylum seekers to come to the UK. There are no routes, they can’t just go and apply. They have to be in the UK to apply and it’s not possible for them to come.
“There are a couple of settlement schemes but they are very small. According to the new proposal by the government, they would like everyone to wait in refugee camps for years and years and people who have agency or decided to save their life and their children’s and make that move themselves will be penalised and punished under the new immigration bill.”
According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 132,000 refugees living in the UK in 2020 and 86,000 asylum seekers living here in 2021, people awaiting an outcome of their application for refugee status.
Around 27,000 vulnerable refugees were resettled in the UK between 2014 and 2021. These were mostly escaping civil war.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK has a long history of supporting refugees in need of protection. Since 2015, we have resettled more than 25,000 refugees through safe and legal routes direct from regions of conflict and instability – more than any other European country.
“Our New Plan for Immigration will fix the broken asylum system so that it is fair but firm, helping those in genuine need through safe and legal routes while stopping those who abuse the system.”
More details on their commitments can be found here.
The Birmingham protests displayed a helpless yet furious response to the channel tragedy, with campaigners pointing the finger at the government.
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