Around 200 people joined Refugees Welcome Here—Racism out of the Referendum meeting in central London last night, Wednesday.
It was organised by Stand Up to Racism against the racist scapegoating that both the official Remain and Leave EU referendum campaigns are whipping up.
As Shakira Martin, the NUS vice president for further education, said, “With the Tories and press constantly pushing a racist agenda it’s important to stand up to it.”
The meeting was also an opportunity to build the movement in solidarity with refugees.
The Tories have been forced to partially retreat on child refugees after Labour Lord Alf Dub’s amendment to the Immigration Bill was passed. His amendment means that more unaccompanied children should be let into Britain.
Dubs told the meeting, “Solidarity is what we need when facing our enemies, more solidarity will help us to keep fighting.
“What helped get it through was public support and I hope that my little effort will help change attitudes to refugees.”
Dubs is now pushing for as many child refugees as possible to be accepted before the school year starts in September.
Thousands of people have built solidarity with refugees and a recent poll showed that 70 percent think the government isn’t doing enough to help. That’s included many trade unionists who’ve organised trips to the Calais “jungle” camp.
Philipa Harvey from the NUT teachers’ union said, “At our annual conference it was clear that many branches are supporting trips to Calais. The NUT has created a hub of resources for teaching refugees to counteract the negative press around refugees.
“We condemn the government’s inadequate response and we welcome children into our schools—the NUT will continue to campaign for that.”
The meeting didn’t agree on the EU referendum. Natalie Bennet, the Green Party leader, said, “We’re campaigning for Remain, but our campaign is called Greens for a Better Europe.
“We want to abolish Fortress Europe”.
Matt Goldborough said from the floor, “What will be the effect of an exit on migrants already in Britain?
“They will face more immigration rules or leave.”
Charlie Kimber, the editor of Socialist Worker newspaper, congratulated Stand Up to Racism for organising a meeting that unites anti-racists across the EU debate. He said, “I am for Leave and it’s my job to confront the racists on that side—just as it’s Natalie’s to confront the racists on hers.
“The main reason I’m for leave is because the EU has turned the Mediterranean into a mass grave.
“I am against the EU because I want to break apart Fortress Europe and all the barriers to people.”
Other speakers included Rabbi Lee Wax and Talha Amad from the Muslim Council of Britain.
Weyman Bennet from Stand Up to Racism urged people to join the Convoy to Calais on 18 June. He said, “Before we go we’ll be stopping off outside Downing Street to blockade Whitehall and say refugees are welcome here.
“I want to close the camps down and welcome refugees—we’ll let them in by breaking the people not allowing them in.
“In this referendum—we will not let the racists divide us."