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Protestors gathered at Buchanan Street steps last week to mourn the lives of 27 refugees, as speakers from local refugee organisations addressed the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill.

On Thursday 25 November, around 100 people gathered at Buchanan Street steps to commemorate the 27 refugees who drowned on Wednesday 24 November while attempting to cross the Channel from France to the UK. Protesters lit candles and observed a minute of silence for the lives lost, which included a pregnant woman and three children, in what has been identified as the deadliest Channel tragedy on record. The demonstration featured a number of speakers from local refugee organisations, who emphasized the message that “refugees are welcome here”.

In addition to remembering the refugees, the evening’s speeches focused particularly on the Nationality and Borders Bill, which is currently passing through parliament. The bill has faced extensive criticism from international human rights organisations, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which has stated that “the UK’s Nationality and Borders Bill would penalise most refugees seeking asylum in the country, creating an asylum model that undermines established international refugee protection rules and practices". Referring to the bill as “racist” and “anti-refugee”, speakers at Thursday’s demonstration urged protesters to write to their MPs about the bill and raise awareness about its implications.

"The evening’s speeches focused particularly on the Nationality and Borders Bill, which is currently passing through parliament."

The CEO of Scottish Refugee Council, Sabir Zazai, who received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Glasgow in 2019 for his services to the community, remarked that “[the Nationality and Borders Bill] is not in our name”, stating that immigration is an important part of UK’s history and identity. Additionally, Sabir said: “Imagine if we had a just and humane asylum system; those 30 people tonight would have been setting up their lives here. They would have been celebrating their first Christmas here.”

Robina Qureshi, a prominent human rights campaigner, warned “we are in danger of committing crimes against humanity”, referring to the Channel disaster as “a human cost of [the UK government’s] agenda”. Similarly, demonstration co-organiser Pinar Aksu, who is a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, emphasised that the deceased refugees were “mothers, fathers, children, aunties, uncles”, in addition to calling for an immigration policy “based on compassion, love, and human rights”. 

"Robina Qureshi, a prominent human rights campaigner, warned “we are in danger of committing crimes against humanity..."

Dave Moxham, the Deputy General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), took to the microphone to highlight the interconnections between the capitalist system and the refugee crisis. During his speech, he criticised “the Tory toughs with their two jobs and their interest to divide this nation so that they can float to the top and continue to sip from the gravy of the profits that they produce". The sentiment was met with applause from the audience. 

Rachel, 27, who attended the protest “in solidarity with those who were lost”, told The Glasgow Guardian that the refugee tragedy on Wednesday “makes me want to scream, because you feel so powerless and voiceless”. UofG student Naïs expressed that we should recognise and utilise our privilege as students by standing up for refugee rights, in addition to highlighting the importance of addressing the climate crisis.

As the demonstration drew to a close, The Glasgow Guardian spoke to the demonstration’s organisers, including Mohammad Asif, who is the director of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation. Mohammad told The Glasgow Guardian: “The government should be ashamed of themselves, especially Priti Patel and Boris, because literally, they have blood on their hands [by] shutting every legal route [to refuge].” When asked whether he has a message to the UK government, he replied: “Don’t treat people who are the victims of your bombing as criminals.”

To find out more about supporting refugees in Glasgow with a community-led charity, please click here.


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