Refugees welcome, racism not welcome in Britain

This video from Britain is called Riots, Recession & Resistance – Zita Holbourne – 11 August 2011.

By Zita Holbourne in Britain:

Refugees are welcome, racism is not

Tuesday 8th September 2015

It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of anti-refugee rhetoric, but there are still ways to help our brothers and sisters fleeing across the globe, writes ZITA HOLBOURNE

The labelling and demonisation of human beings is fuelled by deepening racism as some migrants and refugees are considered more equal or “deserving” than others. Politicians are quick to forget that the riches Europe enjoys were gained through enslavement, colonialism and empire.

The myths and lies told by politicians and the mainstream media about people migrating and refugees fleeing persecution and war are nothing new. In recent years those migrating to Britain have been scapegoated in an attempt to shift the blame for austerity. When people migrate to Britain they are described as migrants, with many negative labels added on, but those emigrating from Britain to other countries are described as ex-pats and not negatively labelled in the same way. Last year the government introduced the Immigration Act, which seeks to reduce the rights of migrants and create a divide in access to services, healthcare, education and more.

So severe are the dangers that people are fleeing right now, that they risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea because it’s safer to do that than to stay where they were. Restricting borders and stopping rescue services won’t prevent people from fleeing. You can’t stop those fleeing persecution by persecuting them some more.

To respond to the government’s failure to adequately address the refugee crisis, demonising those who have died, which includes children and babies, while fleeing persecution, war and poverty in an attempt to find a safe haven and calling for a more compassionate, humanitarian response, several organisations including my own, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (Barac UK), have called a national day of action under the banner “Refugees welcome here” on Saturday September 12.

The other organisations are Stand up to Racism, the Stop the War Coalition, Migrant Rights Network, War on Want, the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, Movement Against Xenophobia, Unite Against Fascism, Love Music Hate Racism and Black Out London.

The assembly point is Marble Arch at 12 noon for a march to Downing Street, with a rally happening there at 2pm. Thousands have indicated they will be attending but as it is a national day of action we have called upon people across regions and countries in Britain to organise solidarity events. There has been a brilliant response with many events taking place on the same day.

Details of the day’s events can be found online and you can say if you’re going on the Facebook event.

Trade unions and their members are encouraged to join us on the day with trade union banners and join the action to support refugees and challenge the government response. In four years Britain has granted asylum to only 5,000 Syrian refugees, far lower than several other European countries. At least 16 European countries have accepted more asylum-seekers than Britain and last week Germany said it would accept 800,000 more this year.

In Calais some 4,000 to 5,000 people are living in a camp dubbed “the Jungle,” a name which some of those left with no other choice but to be there have rejected. They don’t have adequate shelter or sanitation and their “living” conditions are harming their health and spreading illness. There are people from many countries living there including Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan (Darfur), Eritrea and Pakistan.

We all have a responsibility to respond with humanity when human beings are in need of help and solidarity and there are many practical ways of supporting our sisters and brothers there.

Barac UK has affiliated with the London2Calais group which is taking food and other essential items to Calais on a regular basis, working with established aid organisations based in Calais. The next visits are planned for September 19 and October 3. The support of Morning Star readers would be very welcome. Information about the group, collection points, what’s needed and how to donate can be accessed on its website and donations can be made on its Indiegogo page. In addition to essential items and food being sent, a library and school have been set up and books in a variety of languages are needed.

The growing support and action by ordinary people is in contrast to the woeful response from politicians and we need to send out a strong, clear message that refugees are welcome here but racism is not.

Instead of barricading borders we should instead break down the barriers which keep refugees out, othering them and increasing racist attitudes. August 27 marked the 52nd anniversary of the March on Washington, yet black and Muslim people are still facing racism and injustice. Martin Luther King said: “Our lives begin to end the day we are silent about the things that matter.” Now is a time to not just speak out but to take action because if all lives were valued equally there would be no need for a #blacklivesmatter hashtag and movement over half a century later, and no need for thousands of people to lose their lives while seeking freedom and a place of peace.

• Zita Holbourne is the co-founder and national co-chair of Barac UK and elected to the Movement Against Xenophobia (MAX) national steering group, the PCS union national executive and the TUC Race Relations Committee. She is a poet, visual artist and curator.

BRITAIN will take in just 20,000 refugees over the next five years, Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday, which saw MPs respond with boos of disappointment: here.

A COUPLE who won a Birmingham Baby of the Year competition are using the prize money to help refugees in the face of callous disregard by David Cameron’s Tory government: here.

THE APP CONNECTING MISSING REFUGEES WITH THEIR FAMILIES “Launched in 2008 by Danish brothers David and Christopher Mikkelsen, Refunite is a free family-locating platform that maintains an anonymous database of more than 405,000 users.” [HuffPost]

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