Protesters say refugees always welcome at rally against Migration Bill

The rally heard from speakers including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Matilda Head
Monday 13 March 2023 22:45 GMT
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Hundreds of people gathered outside the Houses of Parliament on Monday evening to protest against the Illegal Migration Bill, as MPs discussed it in the Commons.

Some carried placards that said “refugees always welcome” as they heard from speakers including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who branded it a “disgraceful piece of legislation”.

Mr Corbyn, now an independent MP, spoke from on top of a fire engine, telling the protesters he believed the Illegal Migration Bill would lead to the UK’s removal from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

He said: “This Bill basically criminalises anyone who arrives in this country in a very desperate state, it sends them off to Rwanda and puts them in a detention centre along the way.”

Mr Corbyn received applause as he added: “I just heard the Home Secretary say they were going to shut down the people traffickers.

“The people traffickers exist because this policy creates a market for them and creates an opportunity for them to exploit people.”

As the debate over the Bill was under way inside Parliament, protesters were told their chants could be heard inside the Commons chamber, leading to loud shouts of “stop the Bill” and “say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here”.

David Locket held a sign that read “Gary Lineker for PM, John Barnes for Home Secretary”.

“I’m appalled that the only people that seem to speak up for refugees are retired footballers,” he said.

He added: “The idea that desperate people in little dinghies are some sort of invasion of this country actually makes me feel sick.”

Kolbassia Haoussou, a speaker at the protest, said as a refugee himself it pained him that the Illegal Migration Bill would have prevented him from attaining the life and protection he has now.

He attended the protest on behalf of the charity Freedom From Torture, and said: “If people cross, come over, they know that the law says they cannot claim asylum, they will go underground, that’s going to play into the hand of modern slavery and exploitation.”

Zoe Gardener, who helped to co-ordinate the protest, said the new migration policy “proposes to completely tear up the right to asylum”.

She said the Government’s attitude to migration is “hostile, useless and divisive”.

When asked what she would say to the Prime Minister, she responded: “You know in your conscience that what you’re doing is wrong.”

But she added: “I don’t think Rishi Sunak would listen, I think this Tory government is way beyond listening to any of us, the best thing we could do is get them out, get the Bill out, we need a government that cares about people.”

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