Anti-racists marched to the Home Office in London on Saturday to protest against the British and European states’ treatment of refugees.
The action, called by Amnesty UK Europe, began at the Italian embassy. The Italian government is working with Libya's coast guard to return refugees to the north African country, often to torture, rape and extortion.
Ulrike Schmidt, an Amnesty coordinator, explained that over 1,500 immigrants have been intercepted by the Libyan coast guard. “Italy finances Libya,” she said. “Of those intercepted and returned only 600 could later be accounted for.
“Between January and June this year, some 700 migrants have died in the sea.”
She added, “Nobody enters those little boats unless they have to. These are people who hope to find a place of safety.
“Libya is not a safe place for them.”
Laura, who joined the march, told Socialist Worker, “It’s really important people show they care about what’s happening to refugees.
“Protesting means we get noticed.”
Saturday marked the first day of the trial of Italy’s former interior minister, far right Matteo Salvini. He has been accused of preventing a rescue boat from docking in August 2019, leaving 147 refugees stranded in the Mediterranean for 19 days.
Salvini has been charged with kidnap and dereliction of duty and could face 15 years in prison.
Another speaker at the protest, Magda, spoke about the situation on the European Union’s (EU) border between Poland and Belarus.
Refugees attempting to get into EU member state Poland are being pushed back into the forests. “But locals have organised support groups, making food and donating clothes and tents,” Magda said.
The protest then marched to the Maltese embassy, chanting, “Refuges are welcome here.”
Outside the embassy activists spoke about “the el Hiblu 3”—three refugees aged 19, 16 and 15 who negotiated passage for 108 migrants on an oil tanker off the coast of Libya. Back in March 2019, over 100 migrants were rescued by the ship from a sinking dinghy.
They were told to head back to the Libyan coast, but the three young refugees negotiated a route to Malta.
The Maltese government charged them with terrorism—meaning they could face life imprisonment.
“We demand freedom and justice for the El Hiblu 3,” one activist said. “The charges are extreme, unfair and arbitrary.”
Thushara is an activist with Stand Up To Racism and Extinction Rebellion. She told Socialist Worker, “No one moves away from a situation that’s good for them. Climate change has seen impoverished countries that can’t deal with the changes get worse.
“Whether in east Africa, or flooding in Bangladesh, climate change has made the situation in impoverished countries worse.
“People are then forced to go where they have a better life and can feed their children.”
Protesters then headed for the Home Office chanting, “Priti Patel hear us say, refugees are here to stay,” and, “Stop, stop the borders bill.”
The Tory bill would criminalise refugees forced to come to Britain via “illegal” means and those who try to help them. And it would make Britain’s brutal immigration system even more racist.
Claire from the Care4Calais charity told the protest, “Asylum seekers and refugees are stuck in hotels and temporary accommodation—they’re desperate.
“There’s people who don’t have access to basic items.
“Then they’re moved around across the country at short notice like pieces on a chess board. We have to oppose the current system and the one Priti Patel wants to bring in.”
Anti-racists have to mobilise against the Tories’ Nationality and Borders Bill as it moves through parliament.