Protest staged in call for ‘open society’
Leeds’ diverse community engaged in a small peaceful demonstration outside the city’s Home Office last week to mark International Migrants Day.
On Thursday 18th December, despite adverse weather conditions, a multi-faith assembly was seen at the gates of Waterside Court, on Kirkstall Road, calling for the freedom of movement for all.
Organised by Leeds No Borders, and coinciding with the UN’s global day of action, other similar protests were also seen in many cities across the country.
Emily Jennings, a spokesperson for the Leeds No Borders group, explained what those in attendance were trying to achieve with the gathering.
“On this internationally recognised day we aim to tell the politicians and big businesses that migrants will not act as their scapegoats for any economic or social crisis,” she said.
“There is in fact growing evidence to show that there is a significant benefit for the UK to be an open society.
“The number of people displaced around the world is now at its highest level since World War II, with 33.3 million people internally displaced and 16.7 million refugees.
“More than 3,000 people have also died whilst trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe and we want the government to help remove these figures with better treatment for all migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.”
Amongst the demonstrators in Leeds were a number of these asylum seekers and refugees who had left their previous countries in search of ‘better lives’ in the UK.
One woman, who did not wish to be named, had arrived from Africa recently and said the conditions she was living in now, were just as bad as in her homeland.
“We have come here to the UK as a way of escaping problems back home,” she said. “Unfortunately since I have been here, I have been offered no support and no love.
“We are being abused here by the Home Office.”
Ms Jennings added that the woman’s story was just one of many that she had heard and explained a separate case of a man who had arrived from Libya.
“We have a man here today, who does not wish to be named, who has been waiting more than six months for any sort of news from the Home Office since arriving in the UK,” she said.
“Until he hears from them, he is unable to work and unable to live. He has just five pounds a day to his name and that is not enough.”
To mark International Migrant Day, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, released his own statement saying ‘far too many migrants still live and work in precarious and unjust conditions’.
“We call for the fulfilment and protection of the human rights of the world's 232 million migrants,” he continued.
In his message, Mr Ki-Moon said that the post-2015 development agenda offers an opportunity to ensure that the needs of the poorest and most marginalized are made a priority.
“To meet the new framework's core objective of ‘leaving no one behind’, we must devote greater attention to the precarious situation of the world's migrants,” Mr Ki-Moon said.