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Anti-racists take to streets across Britain to demand child refugees are let in

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Issue 2525
The rally outside Liverpool Street was the centrepiece of a day of action
The rally outside Liverpool Street was the centrepiece of a day of action (Pic: Guy Smallman)
Lord Dubs (left) and Professor Leslie Brent (right)

Lord Dubs (left) and Professor Leslie Brent (right) (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Two men who came to Britain as child refugees in the 1930s spoke out for the refugee children of today at London Liverpool Street last night Friday. Labour lord Alf Dubs and Professor Leslie Brent came as part of the “Kindertransport” trains fleeing the Nazis. 

Dubs said, “I was six years old when I arrived at this very station, but the cause of refugee children continues.”

The 250-strong rally at the Kindertransport statue outside station was the centrepiece of a day of action for the Dubs amendment. It was called out of last week’s Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) conference. 

Dub’s amendment to the Tories’ Immigration Act commits Britain to taking in refugee children, notably from the “jungle” shantytown in Calais that’s marked for demolition this month. 

But the government has dragged its feet on bringing in even children who were already eligible for asylum. 

“I shudder to think of the consequences of the way the camp is being bulldozed,” said Dubs. “The children have to be brought here in safety. They have the right to the same opportunities in Britain that I had.”

Other speakers included Professor Brent also spoke, NUT teachers’ union executive member  Alex Kenny and Amnesty International campaigner Ulrike Schmidt. 

Weyman Bennett, SUTR joint convenor, said, ”Some of the children who came on the Kindertransport had to leave their brothers or sisters behind. 

“That’s why we say ‘never again’!”

He took on the Tories’ hypocritical bluster about Syria. “Boris Johnson says ‘something must be done’. Well if you’re foreign secretary there is something you can do for Syrians—you can let them in right now.”

Retired public health worker Bridget heard about the demonstration at a theatre performance the night before. “It’s essential to have a movement showing that the majority of people want refugees—and not just the children—brought into this country,” she told Socialist Worker.

Commuters passing through the station joined the crowd—including school student Liz, IT consultant Mosh and shop worker Ed. Liz said, “It’s despicable Britain isn’t doing more to help people in situations it did so much to create.”

Ed, a migrant from Ghana, said, “You see footage of Syria where they’re fishing children out of rubble. 

“Of course they should be let in here.” Mosh added, “I’m really pleased to see people trying to make a difference on this.” 

Anti-racists organised protests across Britain 

Protesting in Manchester

Protesting in Manchester (Pic: Mark Krantz)

Stand Up To Racism groups across Britain organised protests and other actions as part of the day of action. 

Around 140 people joined a lively protest in Oxford. Labour and Green councillors, trade unionists and refugee support activists slammed the Tories’ scapegoating of migrants—and handed out more than 1,000 leaflets. 

The previous evening they had set up a local SUTR committee for organising future initiatives.

The crowd of up to 60 people outside Chesterfield train station in Derbyshire was twice what organisers had expected.

Among the 50 people at a vigil in Manchester were Somali students Farhiyo and Amal. Farhiyo said, “This is my first protest. I really relate to what we are doing tonight. My mum came as a child from Somalia—that’s why I am here.”

Anti-racists show support in Chesterfield

Anti-racists show support in Chesterfield (Pic: James Eaden )

Amal added, “I have family in Greece. We are in contact with them. They fled from Somalia but now they are stuck.”

Others taking part included 20 other university students, Unison union branches from Salford and Bolton and Labour MEP Julie Ward.

The Rotherham 12 justice campaigners joined a lively protest of around 50 people in Sheffield, including former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett. 

She said, “The government has promised to let the Dubs children in. Theresa May herself moved the amendment in the House of Commons to make that happen. 

“She has to act and quickly before the refugee camp in Calais is closed.”

Campaigners in Birmingham, Huddersfield, Cambridge held stalls on Friday night.

Around 20 people helped on the stalls in Brixton, south London, were mobbed with people showing support from the moment they set up on Friday evening.

Hundreds of people signed petitions, took away leaflets, bought badges and made donations. Connie Sampson told Socialist Worker, “I’m very worried at the way that the government is saying that migrants and refugees are causing problems.

“I was born here but I’m a black woman. As things get nastier, I know I will be targeted too.”

Student Salma added, “I see the suffering in Aleppo in Syria and I am frustrated that nothing stops it. At least welcoming refugees would be a positive response. 

“I’ve taken 25 leaflets about Stand Up To Racism to give to my friends at college.”

Students and trade unionists show support for refugees 

Up to 1,000 marched in Westminster

Up to 1,000 marched in Westminster (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Earlier on Friday students held stalls, protests or photo calls at the Universities of Bristol, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kingston and Leeds and King’s College London.

A total of 80 people took part in the demonstration in Bristol, chanting “Let Them In” and “Say it Loud Say it Clear, Refugees are Welcome Here”.

For Lilly it followed the “very inspiring” SUTR conference. “We’re here today to put pressure on the government,” she said. 

Andre added, “Racism has to stop. If you don’t fight it, it doesn’t going away. We have to fight—in the workplace, on the campus, everywhere.”

Workers also gathered for solidarity selfies at a number of hospitals, schools and colleges. 

North London primary school teacher Emma told Socialist Worker, “I went round with a colleague who’s in the Labour Party to put up posters and talk to people. We did selfies at lunchtime.

“For primary teachers—who often teach migrant or refugee children—this issue is a no brainer. And the people who took part are interested in doing more and have been asking me about SUTR.”

The mobilisations continued today, Saturday, with more protests and street campaigning.

Around 100 people joined the demonstration in Cardiff, including the city’s mayor, Unison and PCS union branches and refugee charities.

Marianne Owens from the PCS union’s national executive said, “The only reason the government has given any ground is because of campaigning. 

“We need more if it to get in not just the children, but all the refugees. Open the border!”

Another 30 SUTR supporters gathered in the Guildhall Square in Portsmouth. They were joined by the touring Journeys Festival, which celebrates the talent and stories of refugees artists. 

The 11 people petitioning in Lancaster were well received with people queuing up to sign

There 30 people protesting in Nottingham, where speakers included Sahira Kauser who has visited Calais a number of times with goods.

The mobilisation finished on a high with up to 1,000 people protesting in central London. They marched on Downing Street chanting “Enact Dubs now” and “Theresa May, here us say, let them in and let them stay.” 

Many were on their first protest, including student Bethan. “When I heard they were going to close the camp in Calais down with teargas, I was outraged,” she said. “It’s so inhumane.”

Arthur Shaw from the RMT rail workers’ union Eurostar branch argued, “Trade unions aren’t just about fighting for terms and conditions, they’re about supporting issues like this. 

“The unions should be doing more.”

Reporting by Audrey Glover, James Eaden, Joe Redmond, Jon Woods, Lee Humber, Mark Krantz, Pat Carmody, Phil Turner, Richard Buckwell and Socialist Worker journalists. If your event isn’t included, send a report and photo to [email protected]

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