Socialist Worker

Build campaign to end voucher scheme

After Sun columnist attacks refugees

Issue No. 1711

'Let them eat vouchers.'

That was the disgusting comment of the Sun's columnist Richard Littlejohn on Friday of last week. His attack on refugees forced to live off vouchers should spur every campaigner to redouble their efforts to scrap New Labour's voucher scheme.

Littlejohn launched a stream of bile against an Iranian asylum seeker who was desperately trying to find supermarkets in the Gateshead area which stocked food he recognised. 'If he doesn't like it,' said Littlejohn, 'he knows the way to the airport.' Littlejohn then finished his column quoting approvingly a racist joke from former Tory MP Terry Dicks.

Dicks ridiculed a Somali refugee family who were buying bottled water in a west London supermarket, saying, 'Where they come from they're happy to drink out of puddles.' These racist attitudes against refugees are fuelling protests in support of asylum seekers.

The Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers organised a national day of action against the voucher scheme last weekend.

Some 35 people attended a protest outside Somerfield in Willesden in west London last Saturday.

Activists at the 35-strong meeting of Brent's committee to defend refugees on Tuesday of last week had called the protest.

Within four days the successful activity had been built and got a good response from local shoppers.

Three protests were held outside supermarkets in east London last Saturday.

Some 20-30 people joined a lively protest outside Asda on the Isle of Dogs. Campaigners displayed a giant version of a refugee voucher. Another 12 people protested outside Sainsbury's in East Ham, and five others held a stall outside Sainsbury's in Ilford.

In south London 15 people joined a protest outside Iceland in Southwark and £40 was collected in donations.

Iceland was also the target in Brixton, with 12 people joining the protest.

Two protests took place in Hackney, east London, with 18 people petitioning outside Tesco in Morning Lane on Friday of last week and a further 15 people protesting outside Sainsbury's in Dalston.

Campaigners in Bristol held stalls at the south west TUC's Respect in the West anti-racist festival in Eastville Park.

Some 20 people, including activists from Oxfam, collected hundreds of signatures in support of refugees.

The activity was one of the ideas that came out of the 25-strong committee meeting in Bristol held on Tuesday of last week. Some 12 people attended a lunchtime meeting in Redland in Bristol on Tuesday of last week to build support for refugees. The meeting was prompted by recent protests in the media against a refugee hostel in the area.

Local residents and workers from Bristol University, which has sites in Redland, discussed organising a picnic in a local park to welcome refugees.

The first local meeting in Stockwell in Nottingham was held last week which 16 people attended, including Labour councillor Jim Creamer and a representative from Amnesty International.

Activists handed out around 1,500 leaflets door to door in the local area to build the meeting.

Around 13 people, including Green councillor Keith Taylor, joined a protest outside the Co-op in Brighton last Saturday.


Flight fight

'A YEAR ago refugees from Kosovo were welcomed at Manchester. Now we hear that there is a secret detention centre at the airport for deporting refugees.' This is what Mark, a local activist, said in the build-up to a protest at Manchester airport.

Around 20-30 people from local committees in Longsight, Chorlton and Bury got together in Manchester last week to plan the action in support of refugees next month. Two asylum seekers who had been held at airport detention centres addressed the meeting.

All are welcome in Manchester, Sunday 16 September, 2pm, Terminal One arrivals, Manchester airport.

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Article information

Sat 26 Aug 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1711
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