The South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group is calling for people to join them on a demonstration in Sheffield against government policy on refugees and asylum seekers.
The rally will take place at Sheffield Town Hall at 1pm on Tuesday 17 March, followed by a march to the Home Office at Vulcan House.
Every year millions of people around the world are forced from their homes by conflict, persecution and poverty, say the group. A small proportion of these seek safety and a better life in Europe.
Every year hundreds of people die trying to reach Europe’s shores crossing the Mediterranean Sea. In February 339 people were drowned close to the Italian coast. Many were sisters and brothers, the youngest was 12 years old.
But the UK government said last October that it would no longer support any search and rescue operations for refugees at sea in the Mediterranean. More than 3,400 people died attempting the crossing in 2014.
Around 150,000 people have been rescued by the service which has been withdrawn. Now, the European Union, including the UK, have a ‘policy’ described as ‘let them drown’.
“Let’s stop burying our heads in the sand,” say the group. “The UK government claims that saving people from drowning in the Mediterranean encourages them to make the journey, but why do people risk everything to try to reach Europe?
“Many people are escaping the terrible war in Syria, where one in every six people has fled the country. Some are Palestinians fleeing from Israeli bombing in Gaza. Some come from Eritrea where people are forced into slave labour (sometimes for western mining companies). People from Sudan are escaping a dictatorship guilty of genocide.
“Letting people drown or building higher fences won’t stop people seeking safety. As Amnesty International say: ‘European Union member states must stop burying their heads in the sand whilst hundreds keep dying at sea.’”
The group are calling for the British government & EU to adopt ‘life-saving alternatives’:
- to provide safe and legal routes to Europe for those seeking safety
- to follow the example of the new Greek government and commit to stop pushing refugees back to war and persecution
- to end ‘fortress Europe’, and welcome refugees from war and persecution.
Mohammed from Syria described what happened when his boat, with 400 people on board, sank in the Mediterranean in October 2013.
“When the boat sank, I could not find my friends. I was asking: where are they? Then I found Omar but another friend was nowhere to be found. I tried to help others but could not. Omar and I helped each other but it was difficult to swim for hours. In the water everyone was looking for family and friends.”
Tell the UK Government: ‘Don’t Let Them Drown’
Tuesday 17th March. Meet bottom of the Moor 12.15. March to Town Hall for rally at 1pm then to the Home Office at Vulcan House S3 8NU.