Up to 700 people joined a refugee solidarity rally organised by Stand Up to Racism in central London last night, Wednesday.
This was another sign of the growing movement against the racist scapegoating of refugees.
Stand Up to Racism, among others, has organised solidarity trips to the “jungle” refugee camp in Calais.
Ra’id, from Brixton in south London, joined one. “We’ll always try to do something to help,” he told Socialist Worker. “Every other person in the mosque is from somewhere that’s in the news.
“I got involved after Paul from Stand Up to Racism came to our mosque and talked about the campaign.”
The rally celebrated the numbers that have mobilised around the issue. Roger McKenzie, Unison union assistant general secretary, said, “This is the start of the ‘new politics’ in Britain.”
Many also stressed that more needs to be done.
Anna from the Refugee Council told the rally, “It’s thanks to you that this government agreed to take 20,000 refugees.
“But the resettlement programme is not the crisis in Europe – it won’t help Eritreans, Afghans and Syrians who’ve fled.”
Ra’id said, “David Cameron is only taking people who are still stuck in Syria. What about those in Calais?
“He should be opening the border and helping them get here.”
Nasma, a Syrian refugee, told how her family had fled Syria. “Now I just want my other brother and my sister to join us,” she said.
Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition slammed the Tories’ attempts to use the refugee crisis to drum up support for bombing Syria.
Gina, a student from Aberdeen, agreed. “How is bombing going to solve problems caused by war?” she asked.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was greeted with rapturous applause. He said, “Wars never really end. I still meet Afghan refugees in my advice bureau wanting to stay – these are the victims of war.
“European governments have to do more – this will not be solved by razor wire fences and gunboats.
“We can’t say we’ll take 20,000 from Syria and do nothing for those stuck in Calais.”
The Tories have tried to use the crisis to pit “economic migrants” against “refugees”. But shadow international development secretary Diane Abbott said, “We should not fall into idea that refugees are a class of migrants more deserving than others.”
People left the meeting wanting to take the campaign forward. Gina said, “We have to open the border. But that’s not a long term solution – we have to raise awareness about why people are fleeing.”
Weyman Bennett from Stand Up to Racism said, “We’re going to go outside David Cameron’s house on 12 November.
“We can break this government because we can win when we fight. We can fight for refugees and against austerity and the attempts to divide us.”
Other speakers included Guardian columnist Owen Jones, NUT union deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney, NUS vice presidents Shakira Martin and Shelly Asquith, among others.