Welcome the refugees and reject racism

The following article by Sabby Dhalu, on the refugee crisis and forthcoming day of action, was originally published by the Morning Star.

Having created the crisis, Western governments, with their ample resources, are failing to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance. Racism frames Europe’s response, with Britain’s government one of the most vile. The 12 September protest should be supported by the widest progressive mobilisation.

Attacking refugees, immigrants and Muslims dominated the government’s agenda this summer, with the global refugee crisis hitting the headlines.

The British government is failing to respond and take responsibility for the most recent developments of desperate people fleeing war, poverty and persecution, despite pictures of Syrian babies drowning going viral on social media, refugees camped outside Budapest’s main station and refugees on the Eurostar train tracks in Calais desperately seeking a safe haven.

This is a grotesque dereliction of duty by the government of one of the world’s richest countries, particularly following the discovery of 71 people dead in an abandoned lorry in Austria and hundreds of people drowning off the coast of Libya last week.

In Budapest the people camped outside the railway station are some of the world’s poorest people escaping war, who paid hundreds of euros for tickets, only to be banned from making the journey to Austria and Germany. In Calais the explanation for the suspension of Eurostar services was described in the mainstream media as fresh “migrant activity,” not desperate refugees, and ironically much is made of the disruption caused to passengers who were provided with a “rescue train” with hot food and drink awaiting them at St Pancras while the refugees get little or no support and no coverage of the devastation and disruption to their lives.

However, across Europe people are demanding that we learn lessons from history and refugees should be welcome to seek a safe haven.

About 20,000 people took to the streets of Vienna under the slogans “refugees welcome” and “I don’t want Europe to be a mass grave” to demonstrate against poor treatment of refugees. In Germany welcome parties were organised for refugees, hundreds of football fans held up banners saying “Refugees welcome” and polls show half of Germans think their country should welcome more.

In Britain, Stand up to Racism, Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts, Stop the War Coalition, the Migrant Rights Network and others have called a national day of action on Saturday September 12 including a demonstration in London under the slogan: “Refugees Welcome Here.” Stand up to Racism has also organised aid convoys to Calais tomorrow and on Saturday October 17.

We must send a clear message: Britain must welcome refugees. This so-called “crisis” is deliberately whipped up when in reality the problems for refugees would be easily resolvable if the British government had the will. Of the 3.9 million Syrian refugees, Britain has only taken 183. Germany takes in around four times as many refugees as Britain does, and for every Syrian asylum-seeker received by Britain, Germany gets 27.

In fact, in a global context the EU accepts a small proportion of refugees. The majority are hosted by some of the world’s poorest countries. Syria has overtaken Afghanistan as the top place of origin of refugees. Most are living in neighbouring countries, with more than two million in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq and another 1.7 million in Turkey. Last year asylum applications to EU countries totalled less than 700,000, not so large a figure in comparison with the countries surrounding Syria. The Middle East and Turkey have a refugee crisis, not the EU.

There are only an estimated 5,000 people living in makeshift camps in Calais. This is a small number of people compared to net migration into Britain of over 300,000 last year.

In order to understand why we are led to believe there is such a crisis, one has to understand the political context. David Cameron and Phillip Hammond’s much criticised dehumanising description of refugees as “swarms,” “marauding” and threatening people’s living standards, is a shameful barefaced attempt to blame refugees and immigrants for the devastating attack on living standards that the government is imposing on the majority of people through austerity. The government cannot implement austerity without lining up its scapegoats, for it refuses to accept responsibility for a fall in living standards of a severity not seen since the 19th century.

Since the general election the government has waged an unrelenting racist offensive with countless speeches directed against Muslims, EU, black and other immigrants. Refugees are the latest target.

We must take inspiration from the “Black Lives Matter” movement in the US. The majority of refugees are black, their lives matter and they should be welcome in Britain. We must not allow the government to scapegoat for its austerity measures refugees, black people, Muslims and immigrants. We must stand up to this Tory racist offensive. Join us on Saturday September 12 for the “Refugees Welcome Here” day of action.

Sabby Dhalu is an organiser with Stand up to Racism and Joint Secretary of Unite Against Fascism. More information on the day of action and how to take part can be found at www.standuptoracism.org.uk.


This article was originally published here by the Morning Star