AMNESTY! –We are all citizens says march of over 25,000 migrants and refugees

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Demonstrators  in central London yesterday showed their support for the Strangers into Citizens campaign and condemned the government’s draconian anti-immigration and asylum laws
Demonstrators in central London yesterday showed their support for the Strangers into Citizens campaign and condemned the government’s draconian anti-immigration and asylum laws

OVER 25,000 people took to the streets to demand citizenship for migrant workers and refugees fleeing persecution to seek asylum in Britain, in a march through central London yesterday.

The rain did not dampen their spirits, as they waved placards, sang songs and shouted out ‘We are not criminals!’ along the route from Westminster Cathedral, past parliament to a rally in Trafalgar Square.

Demonstrators were told ‘Welcome’ from the platform in different languages – French, Tamil, Hindi, Somali, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Arabic, Romanian and many more.

One of the first speakers, announced: ‘This is a wonderful show of support for the campaign for turning Strangers Into Citizens. At the same time there is an event taking place in Birmingham.

‘Some people say to us this campaign is against the law . . . if the law is out of sync with reality, then it needs to be challenged.

‘It used to be legal to send children up chimneys to clean them, to trade people as slaves – that did not make it right.’

Austen Ivereigh, Strangers Into Citizens coordinator, condemned the ‘deportation of children, the imprisonment of asylum seekers and the degradation of people who work, pay taxes and enrich our society.’

Demanding an amnesty for refused asylum seekers and long-term migrants who have worked and put down roots in Britain, he said: ‘It has been done in Europe and in the United States, it is time it was done here. . . As long as the law resists the cry of freedom and dignity, it is the law itself that is enslaved.

‘It’s time again to unchain human beings.’

Helen Bamber, from the Helen Bamber Foundation, said the foundation had been established ‘to meet the needs of people who have suffered extreme and terrible cruelty’, including torture, ethnic violence, genocide and trafficking.

She told the rally: ‘The people I see in my consulting room are people who’ve suffered profound physical and psychological injury.’

She said some of the asylum seekers she saw were permanently disfigured or had witnessed loved ones being killed.

‘There is a battle to be won,’ she concluded, urging everyone to fight ‘for compassion in the face of indifference and adversity.’

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis told the rally: ‘UNISON represents 1.4 million public service workers.’

Demanding an end to the ‘bullying’ of migrant workers, Prentis described employers threatening to report them to the immigration authorities if they complained as ‘abuse at its worst’.

‘Migrant workers be proud. Be in no doubt whatsoever, your cause is at the heart of my union UNISON.’

Labour Party deputy leadership contender John Cruddas said the demand for an amnesty was a policy ‘whose time has come’.

He said not to grant an amnesty would leave 320,000 people in London at the mercy of unscrupulous ‘landlords, employers and criminal gangs’.

TGWU deputy-leader Jack Dromey said: ‘The trade union movement has been built on a history of migration.

‘We in the trade union movement remember our history.

‘We are on the side of those who come to our shores, whether they are documented or undocumented.’

He also backed the demand for an amnesty for an estimated 500,000 ‘undocumented’ workers in London and across the country.