Tuesday 2 July 2013

Report from Bristol march

A giant 10-foot 'scapegoat' paraded through the streets of Bristol on Saturday for the first asylum seeker-led national day of action against destitution called for by Bristol Dignity for Asylum Seekers, with events also taking place in Bradford, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Glasgow and Birmingham.    

Marching along old market in Bristol
"The scapegoat sends a message to everyone that we are not to blame, that punishing us does not help society. We want to contribute and be safe”
Thulani Ndlovu, 39, BRR member who spoke on the Bristol march.

The asylum seekers who started self-organising last year have had to overcome language barriers and traumatic personal experiences to arrange the march, which aims to highlight the government policy of forced destitution.

Destitute asylum seekers are not permitted to work or claim any support so they are prevented from providing for themselves. This means that they are dependent upon charities and friends for housing, money and food and are unable to access education and some healthcare. Asylum seekers can be in this situation for years.

Manesh, 29, former student in electrical engineering, from Iran says 
“I came here to be safe, I had to leave Iran because I was part of a humanitarian political group. I have had no support for over 4 years. I would like to share my skills and contribute to society.
City councillor Ron Stone spoke on the march saying that he wants Bristol and George Ferguson to lead the way in changing the national policy on destitution and to hold a national conference of asylum seekers in Bristol.

Councils in Glasgow, Bristol and Sheffield have all passed motions against destitution in the past year. Bristol Mayor George Ferguson said in January,
"We should not tolerate destitution in our city for any reason" 
However, the national policy remains unchanged, charity Bristol Hospitality Network estimate that over 100 people are currently destitute in Bristol alone.

Marching just one week after refugee week, a celebration of all refugees have contributed to the UK. The asylum seekers and their supporters plan to continue working together to build a strong national campaign in order to change the policy that forces them into destitution. 

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