Turning up to the Refugees Welcome Here rally alone in the middle of Camden was scary for sure, but I managed to find my way there all by myself (as shocking as that sounds!) and I was lucky enough to listen to some inspiring speakers and meet some awesome people too.
The atmosphere was unbelievably uplifting, and even though most people were there to see Jeremy Corbyn, they listened and absorbed everything the other speakers had to say as well. And they had some incredible things to say.
The highlight for me, other than Jeremy Corbyn, was Shakira Martin, NUS Vice President for Education, who burst onto the stage like a ball of energy and gave a refreshing view on what austerity is like for real people living real lives in poverty and how we can help them, and how we can and need to help refugees.
I was stunned by a young Syrian refugee’s testimony about how she got here and how horrible her journey was from Syria. She explained that she, like many others, did not want to leave her country. She did not want to flee but was forced to through threats of rape from President al-Assad’s army after her brother defected from the army.She lived for the last 4 years in Turkey with her family, but her brother and sister are still stuck there, after the UK only granted half their family visas. She told us how much she misses them, I can’t even begin to imagine the heartbreak she must be feeling.
You could feel the entire room tear up when Nasma, the Syrian refugee, spoke. I just wanted to wrap her up safely in blankets and tell her it was all going to be okay, but of course I couldn’t and can’t. Because the truth is we don’t know if everything is going to be okay. What she told us is the reality for hundreds of thousands of people having to flee every day and most of the time their circumstances are too horrific to even think about.
That’s the thing I think people forget about: they are PEOPLE. Not animals, not flees or a disease trying to take over what we have deemed as ‘our land’. They are just people, reaching out for our help because we lucky enough to in the position to do so. To not help is inhumane, and I do not know how David Cameron sleeps at night knowing there are thousands of refugees just across the channel starving and freezing to death, and not reaching out and helping them.
Where is the humanity.
I want to clear up a few myths about refugees, certainly about the refugees coming to the UK, as it makes me so angry and so sad when people are ignorant enough to claim that the UK is just for Brits and that immigrants are ruining our British culture or whatever madness it is the press are claiming these days.
Only 216 refugees were resettled into the Uk between March 2014 and July 2015. Almost 1.8 million have gone to Turkey, more than 600,000 to Jordan and 1 million to Lebanon – a country whose population is just 4 million. Since the crisis began a few months ago, a single boat load of people, that’s around 12 people, have arrived in Britain. So please, if anyone says to me that refugees and immigrants are ‘taking our jobs’ one more time, I will have no choice but to hit you with my handbag.
Nearly 4 million Syrian’s have fled war since 2011, with desperation increasing over the last few months. So much so, that people are risking their lives to leave their homes. And many did not make it. This year alone, 3.5 thousand Syrian refugees have drowned, that’s 11 a day. That’s a figure I don’t think I will ever get my head around.
Something that stood out for me during the rally was mentioning that refugees only get into these boats, risking not only their own lives but also their family’s and children’s lives, is because water is safer than land. In 2015, water is safer than land.
Diane Abbott MP Shadow Secretary of State for International Development made a brave but truthful statement saying that we cannot forget the economic migrants, the people fleeing war in Afghan and iraq, wars that we started. We need to shift the stigma that all refugees have attached to them, and we must not deem one more important than the other. It is not for us to decide, it is for us to help.