Manchester campaigners standing up to racism, Rwanda offshoring plans and the hostile environment

Organisations supporting asylum seekers and refugees have branded current Government policy “unacceptable”.
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Manchester campaigners are putting on public events to show support for asylum seekers and refugees and protest against the Government’s current approach to handling people arriving in the country.

Manchester Stand Up To Racism organised a public rally on Thursday (26 May) with high-profile speakers including the organisation’s national president and Labour MP Diane Abbott.

The organisation is also putting on an event in St Peter’s Square on Saturday (28 May) which marks the anniversary of the murder of African-American George Floyd at the hands of a police officer.

Campaigners have condemned the Home Office’s plan to send people claiming asylum to Rwanda, the controversial Nationality and Borders Act which has been passed by parliament and the hostile environment for refugees.

What are the Manchester events being organised at the moment?

Manchester Stand Up To Racism organised an event at the Friends’ Meeting House in the city centre on Thursday evening (May 26).

Speakers included representatives of groups which work with asylum seekers and refugees such as Manchester City of Sanctuary, trade unions and faith groups.

The event was also attended virtually by Stand Up To Racism’s national president, the Labour MP for Hackney Diane Abbott.

Diane Abbott MP addresses the meeting in ManchesterDiane Abbott MP addresses the meeting in Manchester
Diane Abbott MP addresses the meeting in Manchester

The organisation brought people together to campaign against the Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda and the hostile environment which they say the Home Office creates for those seeking safety in the UK.

A rally is also being held on Saturday (28 May) in St Peter’s Square at 1pm to remember the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in the USA two years ago.

Participants will take the knee and speak about racism Black people continue to face on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

What have the organisers said?

Manchester Stand Up To Racism said the numerous issues it is campaigning against at these events are all linked.

Co-chair Nehella Ashraf said: “We are standing in solidarity with George Floyd but it’s really important to realise it’s not just a struggle in the US. We have similar issues with racism from the state and from the police and the whole situation with the hostile environment and the treatment of refugees in Britain.

“We think the Rwanda plan is absolutely unacceptable. To do that to refugees who are vulnerable and already traumatised is wrong. It is not acceptable to just ship them off.

“The Nationality and Borders Bill also criminalises people who are fleeing for their lives and section nine of it impacts anyone who is an ethnic minority or has a connection with another country as their citizenship can be removed by the Home Office.

“People in Manchester and across the country are supporting refugees, we know that. We have seen a massive outpouring of support for Ukrainian refugees.”

What have participants said?

One of the speakers is Tandrima Mazumdar, who is seeking sanctuary herself and works with Manchester City of Sanctuary.

She said many of the reasons refugees and asylum seekers flee their homes stem from long histories of poor, colonial treatment of the Global South which have led to dire economic conditions, wars and issues with human trafficking.

And she said that over the past decade the government has made it progressively harder for people to prove they have a right to settle in the UK, and the Nationality and Borders Act represents the worst step yet in this direction.

Tandrima said: “The hostile environment has made it harder to work, rent property, open bank accounts, get driving licences, and access welfare and public services. Restrictions on access to benefits has forced people without immigration status into destitution.

“The hostile environment does not appear to be working for anyone: for migrants, for the Home Office, or for the wider public.

Migrants who crossed the Channel in small boats are among those who face being deported to Rwanda (Photo: Getty Images)Migrants who crossed the Channel in small boats are among those who face being deported to Rwanda (Photo: Getty Images)
Migrants who crossed the Channel in small boats are among those who face being deported to Rwanda (Photo: Getty Images)

“This cruel Nationality and Borders Bill represents the biggest legal assault on international refugee law ever seen in the UK.

“It is costing the taxpayer millions of pounds, along with the millions to be paid Rwanda to house them. The bill hasn’t stopped channel crossings, instead the seas will become even more dangerous, and the people smugglers will continue to evade punishment.

“We must demand a halt in implementation of the Nationality and Borders Bill that sees refugees as criminals. We must demand safe routes to be made available to everyone seeking sanctuary.

“The ‘hostile environment’ policy has fostered racism, pushed people into destitution and wrongly targeted people who are living in the UK legally.”

What has the Government said?

The Home Office has repeatedly defended the Nationality and Borders Bill throughout its progress through the House of Commons.

After it became law as the Nationality and Borders Act on 28 April the Government said it would deter illegal entry into the UK, break the business model of people-smuggling networks and free up the asylum system to process those in need.

Home secretary Priti Patel said: “This is a huge milestone in our commitment to our promise to the British public - a fair but firm immigration system.

“While there is no single solution to the global migration crisis, these new laws are the first step in overhauling our decades-old, broken asylum system.”