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Thursday, 25 November 2021

Channel deaths: We need safe routes now

Six ways to create safe routes and save lives
We want to express our deep sorrow at the recent deaths of those trying to cross the Channel to claim asylum in the UK. From our solidarity work with Syrians we well understand what catastrophes they were fleeing from, and the additional anxiety and horror to their families of this new catastrophe.

We are sickened by official responses: the expressions of shock, as if this tragedy were not an inevitable consequence of government policies; the British and French blaming each other; both Government and Opposition blaming the smugglers who only exist because of the absence of safe routes to asylum.

We are sickened especially by Priti Patel’s lies about people crossing the Channel, describing them as ‘economic migrants,’ saying they are ‘elbowing out the women and children,’ even though the Refugee Council has shown from Home Office figures that 91% of channel crossers since January 2020 have been from ten nationalities with a strong likelihood of being granted asylum.

Most are fleeing from authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and Africa, tolerated if not supported by Western governments. The proposed solution of another Immigration and Nationality bill, which threatens to undermine the right to asylum and breach international law, will be ineffectual against such ‘push factors’ and will serve only to promote a climate of hysteria and populist authoritarianism in our own countries.

What we ask for instead is an acceptance of current realities and the creation of safe routes to claim asylum in Europe and in the UK, such as:
  • The establishment of a UK consulate in northern France to accept and process asylum claims, with particular categories (those with family or other connections with the UK) given priority;
  • The resumption of resettlement schemes from countries neighbouring the zones of conflict, under the auspices of the UN;
  • A workable policy of refugee family reunion;
  • Restoration of the ‘Dubs’ scheme to accept our share of unaccompanied minors in Europe;
  • A process for urgently processing claims from persons at particular risk, such as military or interpreters who have worked for British occupation forces abroad, or NGOs funded by us;
  • The allocation of sufficient resources for a humane and speedy asylum process.
It’s the least we can do.

Syria Solidarity UK

Friday, 25 June 2021

Amnesty vigil at Danish Embassy calls for continued protection of Syrian refugees

On World Refugee Day, 20 June, Amnesty held a vigil at the Danish Embassy in London calling for continued protection of Syrian refugees.

Between 2020 and 1 April 2021, Denmark has revoked or not renewed the residence permits of 380 Syrians, claiming that certain parts of Syria (Damascus and the Rif region) are “safe”. While many of them are waiting for their cases to be finally decided in appeal, 39 Syrians have already been put in a “return position”, meaning that they are at risk of being returned to Syria. Amnesty International believes that any return to Syria would be a violation of the international obligation of non-refoulement, which prohibits states from transferring people to a place where they would be at real risk of serious human rights violations. Read more from Amnesty.

The vigil was physically attacked by a lone counter-demonstrator, presumed to be from the Far Right. After he had broken a banner pole, he was restrained an removed, and the vigil continued with speeches.

Our words to the vigil:

“Greetings and solidarity from Syria Solidarity UK. Three of us spoke to the Danish ambassador here on seventh May when we presented a letter of protest from eight UK Syrian organisations.

“He said: ‘We had a moment of difficulty in 2015 when many asylum seekers came.’

“We said that was a moment of grace for Europe, when Europe opened its borders to Syrians, and it’s a shame that European leaders could not live up to it. Since then, there’s been a race to the bottom on asylum across Europe, and Denmark is in the lead. We are very afraid that other other countries will follow that bad example.

“We are not proud of what’s happening already in the UK, with Priti Patel leading an assault to asylum rights, including the use of old army barracks as refugee camps.

“But the good news is that—just as Syrians walked bravely through Europe’s borders in 2015—they are now organising and leading a fight back from the camps, with the help of dedicated NGOs like Care4Calais and others. Pennally is closed and we’ll see what happens in Napier after the great high court victory in June.

“And they’re leading the protests in Denmark too.

“Wherever there are Syrians there’s a fight back. The revolution still lives in Idlib but also in Copenhagen and in London!”