On Saturday, Refugee Council supporters, staff, refugees, asylum seekers and organisations supporting them, joined with hundreds of thousands of people in central London on the March for the Alternative, to protest against swingeing government cuts.
Thanks to all that joined us on the day to show their support for refugees.
Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council gave an inspiring speech at the rally in Hyde Park at the end of the march. Here is her speech in full:
“There are many countries in the world where an anti government demonstration like this would be illegal. And for someone like me to speak out publicly like this against the government would result in torture and imprisonment. Those are the countries refugees and asylum seekers come from.
“When they arrive seeking protection in a rich democracy like the UK, they rely on the kindness of strangers to help them get the help they need and deserve. This support is provided by charities like the Refugee Council and by local refugee community organisations up and down the country. That support- which can be the difference between being allowed to stay in the UK- and being forced to return to a country where your life is in danger has been devastated by the government’s cuts.
“The Home Office has slashed national funding for refugee and asylum support by 60% overnight. There was no phasing of cuts over four years for us. And refugee community organisations have been the first in line for local authority cuts – and are going to the wall daily.
“Asylum seekers and refugees are not just some of the most vulnerable people in Britain – they are some of the most vulnerable people in the world.
And they have been on the brunt of more than their fair share of cuts.
“This year is the 60th anniversary of the refugee convention, a convention that has saved millions of lives. That has enabled tens of thousands of people fleeing persecution to build a new life in the UK. From Hungarians in the 50s, to the Vietnamese in the 70s, and the Kosovans in the 90s. The government is marking that anniversary – and the lives saved- by pulling support away from the people who arrive in the UK today- from Iran, Somalia and Afghanistan – who need it just as much.
“Intervention against tyrants in countries like Libya must go hand–in– hand with supporting those people who seek protection in the UK because they have stood up to oppressive regimes.
“It has been brilliant for refugees, asylum seekers and their organisations to take part in this march today, and to see that I have been given the chance to speak, giving a clear message to government that this demonstration is not just about protecting jobs- but also about standing shoulder to shoulder with refugees and asylum seekers. This is a message of solidarity that some of the bravest – but most vulnerable – people in the world must not be treated as an easy target for cuts.”